California’s undocumented immigrants use fewer health services

From the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research: undocumented immigrants in California see the doctor and visit emergency rooms significantly less often than U.S. citizens and documented immigrants.
One in five U.S.-born adults visits the ER annually, compared with roughly one in 10 undocumented adults — approximately half the rate of U.S.-born residents.
“The great majority of undocumented in California are working-age adults who contribute greatly to California’s economy by working in physically demanding service, agriculture and construction jobs,” project director Nadereh Pourat said. “It makes financial sense to make sure they have affordable health coverage options so they can stay healthy.”
“The undocumented who end up in the emergency room have often delayed getting any care until they are critically sick.”
The study also found that undocumented immigrants’ average number of doctor visits per year was lower: 2.3 for children and 1.3 for adults, compared with 2.8 doctor visits for U.S.-born children and 3.2 for adults.
Nine percent of uninsured undocumented immigrants had visited the ER, significantly lower than the 12 percent of uninsured U.S.-born residents, who had the highest ER use of all groups.
In 2009, California was home to more than 2.2 million undocumented immigrants, the study found. And while these immigrants make up 6.8 percent of California’s residents, they represent nearly a quarter of the state’s uninsured population.
The undocumented don’t get preventive care, potentially leading to more advanced disease and higher public expenditures.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act extended access to health coverage to about 3.3 million people in the state but not to California’s more than 2.2 million undocumented immigrants, the study notes.

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