Immigrants and Health Care Access, Quality and Cost

Several studies indicate that immigrants to the U.S. are less likely than U.S. citizens to receive cancer screening and other preventative health measures. Having non-English speaking parents translates to a greater likelihood that a child will lack regular care.

This literature review examined studies of how immigrants to the U.S. experience the U.S. health care system. Using keyword searches in PubMed, the authors identified 67 articles that met the criteria for review. Studies had to use an indicator of immigrant status, such as citizenship or limited English proficiency (LEP), to assess one of three health care outcomes: access to care, quality of care and cost. Goals of this review were the establishment of a baseline of research for future studies and the assessment of immigrant subpopulations.

Key Findings:

  • A majority of the general immigrant population does not have private health insurance.
  • Foreign-born individuals and their children are unlikely to have employer-sponsored insurance.
  • The 1996 Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) led to a significant drop in health coverage for immigrants.

This is the first literature review to focus on the direct experiences of immigrants and immigrant subpopulations within the U.S. health care system.