A new study published in Health Affairs reports that immigrant workers in the United States disproportionately contribute to the Medicare Program and help ensure its financial solvency and strength. The study's authors found that between 2002 and 2009, $115 billion of the Medicare Trust Fund was generated solely by immigrants. The Medicare Trust Fund pays for Medicare's Part A inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, home health, and hospice services for the aged and disabled. In 2009 alone, immigrants contributed $33 billion to the Trust Fund, nearly 15% of total contributions that year.
The Researchers also found that Medicare expenditures for care for immigrants were actually lower than those for U.S. born employees. Some of these differences were partly explained by demographic differences – authors noted that there are currently 6.5 immigrants of working age for every one elderly immigrant, but only 4.7 working-age native citizens for every one retiree. The report notes that the Census Bureau projects that the proportion of immigrants in the United States will increase even further for the next 18 years.
As Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform to offer a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., this report highlights an important reality about immigrants and the contributions they make to their communities and society, including important programs like Social Security and Medicare. The report states that immigration reform offering a path to citizenship for immigrants in our communities would increase revenues for the Medicare Trust Fund as a result of more workers coming "out of the shadows" and working in official capacities where payroll taxes are collected. In addition, a path to citizenship would offer immigrants the opportunity to pursue higher-paying jobs than they are currently eligible for due to their lack of official documentation.
Economists and researchers agree that immigrants are good for Medicare. As we've written before, it's also crucial to remember how important access to health care, including Medicare, is for immigrants and their families. As the report's authors vividly conclude:
"Having ourselves witnessed immigrants dying needlessly because of lack of health care, we (and many of our colleagues) are motivated by the belief that all patients have a human right to health care…Our data offer[s] a new perspective on the[se] economic concerns…that immigrants are driving up U.S. health care costs."
For more information, contact policy associate Xenia Ruiz (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Center for Medicare Advocacy's Washington, DC office at (202) 293-5760.
 Health Affairs, Immigrants Contributed an Estimated $115.2 Billion More to the Medicare Trust Fund Than They Took Out in 2002-2009, June 2013, available at http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/6/1153.
 Center for Medicare Advocacy, Immigration Reform and Access to Health Care, available at http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/immigration-reform-and-access-to-health-care/.