The Number and Cost of Immigrants on Medicaid: National and State Estimates. Executive Summary


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) made major changes in the eligibility of legally admitted immigrants for health insurance under the Medicaid program. In the past, immigrants were eligible for the full range of Medicaid benefits, like citizens.(1) In contrast, undocumented (illegal) aliens were eligible only for emergency medical benefits, not full coverage. Under the new welfare reform law, with certain exceptions, noncitizen immigrants who arrive in the U.S. after August 1996 will be barred from Medicaid, although they may still be covered for emergency services.

Assessing the impact of this change has been problematic because there are few data about the number and costs of immigrants on Medicaid. This report provides national and state-by-state estimates of the number and cost of noncitizen Medicaid beneficiaries.