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Keeping immigrants off Medicaid costlier

BUFFALO, N.Y., Nov. 15 (UPI) -- It is more expensive for the U.S. taxpayer to restrict immigrants' access to Medicaid than it would be to allow them benefits, a researcher says.

Yunju Nam, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, said because of welfare reform, non-citizens are no longer eligible for federally funded Medicaid if they immigrated to the United States after 1996 and have not lived in the country for five years or longer.

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For example, under welfare reform, a 75-year-old woman who emigrated from Poland four years ago, and is unable to afford healthcare, is ineligible to receive Medicaid.

The study, scheduled to be published by the end of the year in the Journal of Aging and Health, found an increase in emergency room expenditures -- paid for by taxpayers -- for older immigrant adults, because many could not afford preventative healthcare.

"Restricting older immigrants' Medicaid coverage likely raises long-term healthcare costs even if it were to succeed in excluding immigrants from Medicaid coverage in the short-term," Nam said in a statement. "Given

this study's findings and other empirical evidence on the negative consequences of limited access to medical care, policymakers should reconsider the current policy of restricting Medicaid eligibility of

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non-citizens."

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