Jim P. Stimpson, Fernando A. Wilson and Dejun Su of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha found undocumented immigrants and other immigrants who lived in the United States for less than five years have few options for accessing healthcare through public programs.
"In light of the ongoing national debate about immigration reform and the impact of the Affordable Care Act on immigrants, we examined differences in healthcare spending by place of birth and legal status using Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data for the period 2000-09," the researchers wrote in the study.
"We found that unauthorized, legal and naturalized immigrants together accounted for $96.5 billion in average annual healthcare spending, compared to slightly more than $1 trillion for people in the United States. Unauthorized immigrants accounted for $15.4 billion of that total, or 15.9 percent."
The study, published in Health Affairs, found 7.9 percent of undocumented immigrants had healthcare spending from public sources averaging $140 per person per year. By contrast, 30.1 percent of people born in the United States had healthcare spending from public sources for an average of $1,385 per person per year.
Average emergency department expenditures for undocumented immigrants were $54 per year, compared to $138 per year for people born in the United States, the study said.