Immigrants Put Billions More into Medicare Than They Use

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Conservatives have argued that unchecked immigration contributes to the rising costs of health care because immigrants do not put the same amount of money into healthcare as citizens do.  As Seth Freed Wessler of Colorlines reports, a recent study proves otherwise.  The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard University and The City University of New York and published in the journal Health Affairs, reported that, “In 2009 immigrants made 14.7 percent of Trust Fund contributions but accounted for only 7.9 percent of its expenditures—a net surplus of $13.8 billion. In contrast, US-born people generated a $30.9 billion deficit.”  Overall, from 2002-2009, the researchers found that immigrants generated surpluses of $11.1–$17.2 billion per year, resulting in a cumulative surplus of $115.2 billion.  This surplus results from the fact that immigrants tend to be working age adults.

As Seth Freed Wessler reports, “The new findings should come as a bit of an embarrassment to fiscal conservatives who are threatening to hold up or derail the immigration overhaul over stated concerns about health care costs.”  The researchers observed that, “Policies that restrict immigration may deplete Medicare’s financial resources.”


Seth Freed Wessler, “Study: Immigrants Put Billions More Into Medicare Than They Use,” Color Lines, May 30, 2013,

Leah Zallman, Steffie Woolhandler, David Himmelstein, et al., “Immigrants Contributed An Estimated $115.2 Billion More To The Medicare Trust Fund Than They Took Out In 2002–09,” Health Affairs, May 2013,

Student Researcher: Jessica Sejud (Santa Rosa Junior College)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Santa Rosa Junior College)