Immigrant and Citizenship Status Affect Health Insurance Coverage and Access to Health Care Services

Study of immigrants' access to health insurance coverage and health services

A team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health conducted a series of studies on the effects of immigrant and citizenship status on health insurance coverage and access to health care services.

Drawing on data from the federal National Health Interview Survey (1995 and 1996, National Center for Health Statistics) and the Current Population Survey (1990, 1993, and 1998, Bureau of the Census), the studies examined coverage and access nationally, as well as in six states where immigrant populations are highly concentrated: California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey.

In addition, the studies analyzed data from the Legalized Population Survey (1989, US Immigration and Naturalization Service; 1992, U.S. Department of Labor) to explore how changes in status from undocumented immigrant to legalized resident might affect health insurance coverage.

Key Findings: The studies showed, among other things, that:

  • While the main reason U.S. residents (both citizens and noncitizens) are uninsured is the cost of health insurance, children who are noncitizens or with immigrant parents are less likely to have health insurance than citizen children.
  • A 1989 amnesty period allowed many undocumented immigrants to gain legal resident status but did not immediately improve their health insurance coverage. The change in legal status, however, may have offset the negative effects of the recession occurring at the time.

Key Results: Data and analysis supported by this grant contributed to a study and publications by the National Research Council/Institute of Medicine (NRC/IOM) Committee on the Health and Adjustment of Immigrant Children and Families simultaneously being undertaken during the grant period.

The project resulted in several published reports, book chapters, and policy briefs. Policy reports and briefs may be accessed on the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research website.