Unauthorized Immigrants and Health Care Legislation

November 6, 2009

One question receiving much attention in the discussion of the pending health care legislation is: How would it affect unauthorized immigrants? In a recent letter (dated October 29), we noted that unauthorized immigrants would constitute about one-third of the 18 million nonelderly residents who we estimate would remain uninsured under H.R. 3962, the bill currently being considered in the House. In our preliminary analysis of an earlier version of the legislation, H.R. 3200 as introduced, we said that nearly half of the 17 million residents who we estimated would remain uninsured would be unauthorized immigrants.

The use of the terms about one-third and nearly half was meant to convey the uncertainty and imprecision surrounding our estimates of the characteristics of the remaining uninsured population. Because of that uncertainty and imprecision, we cannot provide a specific figure for coverage of unauthorized immigrants under any of the proposals. Despite the difference in wording, we would not expect any significant differences between the two bills in the number of uninsured who are unauthorized immigrants, because the relevant features of the two proposals are similar. (Our analysis of H.R. 3200 was preliminary and based on specifications rather than a reading of the legislative language.) Further, we have not changed our methodology for estimating the relevant factors in the intervening period.