Immigrants pay more for premiums than they get in health benefits, study says

Immigrants paid 12.6 percent of premiums to private health insurers in 2014 but represented only 9.1 percent of the health insurers' expenses, according to a study published in the October issue of Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers from Boston-based Harvard Medical School analyzed 2008-14 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The survey provides information on healthcare spending and premium contributions for U.S. households. Researchers used the data to examine what private insurers spent per enrollee versus the premiums paid by the enrollee in a given year.

The study found immigrants paid $1,123 more in premiums per enrollee than what the health insurer paid for their care in 2014. This offsets a deficit of $163 per U.S.-born enrollee, according to the report. Even after 10 years as a U.S. resident, immigrants' net subsidy persisted. The surplus premiums of immigrants totaled $174.4 billion from 2008-14.

"These findings suggest that policies curtailing immigration could reduce the numbers of 'actuarially desirable' people with private insurance, thereby weakening the risk pool," according to the researchers.

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