Study: 42 Percent of New Medicaid Recipients in the Last Two Years Were Immigrants

by Patrick Brennan

Almost half of the low-income Americans who have enrolled in Medicaid in the past two years are immigrants to the United States, according to a new report, suggesting that Obamacare’s large expansion in the program will disproportionately benefit immigrants as well.

“The data show that immigrants and their children accounted for 42 percent of the growth in Medicaid enrollment from 2011 to 2013,” the CIS report says.

Because immigrants are more likely to have low incomes or lack insurance from their jobs, they’re much more likely to be eligible for the existing Medicaid program — and Obamacare’s expansion of it, which began this year.

The report looks specifically at Medicaid growth right up until the program’s dramatic expansion. This year, the health-care law expanded the program, in most states, to any adults and their dependents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, boosting federal spending on the program by tens of billions of dollars per year. Much of the benefits of the expansion, the CIS report points out, will then flow to low-income immigrants.

Federal law bans the admission of immigrants who are likely to be significant beneficiaries of welfare, technically a “public charge,” but that definition doesn’t consider in-kind welfare programs like Medicaid: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines being a public charge as “the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” The USCIS union president has recently complained that President Obama is not enforcing public-charge laws.

Illegal immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid currently and are technically ineligible for the Medicaid expansion or any other direct Obamacare benefits, but fraud in the program is rarely investigated and recipient-level eligibility is rarely checked in many places. 

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