Immigrants have long been a significant part of the United States’ social fabric, contributing to the nation’s diversity and economy. However, when it comes to health coverage and access to medical care, a stark disparity exists among immigrants and U.S. citizens. According to the 2023 KFF Survey of Immigrants, the largest national survey focused on immigrants, access to health coverage remains a significant challenge for many immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented. Here’s an overview of the key findings from the survey:
Health Coverage Disparities
The survey reveals a stark difference in overall healthcare coverage among citizens and immigrants in the U.S.:
- Nearly half of all undocumented immigrants are uninsured.
- One in five lawfully-present immigrants lack health coverage.
- Only 6% of naturalized citizens and 8% of U.S.-born citizens reported being uninsured.
There are also challenges when it comes to the types of health insurance immigrants have access to and are eligible for:
- Private Coverage: Noncitizen immigrants have limited access to employer-sponsored coverage, primarily due to low-wage jobs which do not offer comprehensive benefits.
- Federal Coverage: Many lawfully-present immigrants face eligibility restrictions for Medicaid and other types of federal programs, with varying state-level options. Undocumented immigrants also remain ineligible for most federal programs.
- State Coverage: Some states offer state-funded coverage for all state residents, regardless of immigration status, leading to improved health outcomes.
Immigrants also face significant enrollment barriers when seeking out health insurance coverage. Even those who are eligible for coverage often remain uninsured due to language challenges, a lack of resources, and general stigma over the use of public benefits. While progress has been made in some states to expand healthcare access, widespread barriers to enrollment still remain among many immigrant communities across the country, particularly for undocumented individuals.
Challenges Accessing Healthcare
Due to a lack of insurance coverage, many immigrants face the following challenges when accessing healthcare:
- Lack of a Consistent Source of Care: Undocumented immigrants often lack regular healthcare providers, such as a family doctor or designated clinic.
- Infrequent Medical Visits: Lawfully present immigrants also face difficulties accessing regular healthcare and are more likely to miss out on routine checkups.
- Delaying Medical Care: According to the survey, uninsured immigrants are more likely to postpone necessary medical care.