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  JULY 19, 2013
Study Finds Immigrant Children Less Likely to See Doctor than US-Born Citizen Counterparts
Low-income immigrant children are less likely than their U.S.-born citizen counterparts to see a doctor even when they are insured. Similarly, immigrant adults are less likely to use emergency rooms than low-income citizens, according to researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. The findings were published in a recent Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report that analyzes health care coverage and usage among immigrants and those born in the U.S.
The report, “Health Care for Immigrant Families: Current Policies and Issues,” found that low-income immigrant children with private or public health care insurance were significantly less likely to visit a doctor’s office during 2010 than native-born children. Overall, whether insured or uninsured, 47 percent of low-income immigrant children reported visiting a doctor’s office during 2010 compared to 69 percent of U.S.-born children. Additionally, the report found that immigrant adults had lower rates of doctor’s office and emergency room visits. Analysis of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data showed that 8 percent of low-income immigrant adults overall reported an emergency room visit during 2010, compared to 13 percent of native-born adults.

Although Congress continues to debate immigrant health care coverage, report co-authors Dr. Leighton Ku, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the School of Public Health and Health Services, and Ms. Mariellen Jewers, senior research associate at GW’s Center for Health Care Quality, suggest that in some respects health care coverage for immigrants has improved in recent years. A significant number of states have expanded coverage for legal permanent resident children and pregnant women as a result of a 2009 law allowing states to eliminate a five-year waiting period instituted as part of a 1996 welfare reform law. The Affordable Care Act also expands Medicaid coverage for legal immigrants and provides them with opportunities to purchase private health insurance through the law’s health insurance exchanges.