The Number and Cost of Immigrants on Medicaid: National and State Estimates. Medicaid Expenditures for Immigrants

12/16/1997

Are Medicaid expenditures for immigrants different than for citizens? We address this issue in two parts, first looking at expenditures for legally admitted immigrants, who have been eligible for the full range of Medicaid benefits, then for undocumented aliens, who were eligible only for emergency services.

A general challenge in analyzing Medicaid expenditures per capita is that medical expenditures are unevenly distributed: children have low average expenditures, while the aged and disabled have high expenditures. As shown in Table ES-1, immigrants on Medicaid include a smaller share of children and the disabled than for the overall caseload. After standardizing for differences in caseload composition, legally admitted immigrants had Medicaid expenditures that were quite close to the overall average, 116 percent of the overall expenditure per enrollee, based on the QC data. Legally admitted immigrants were a little more expensive in California (122 percent of the average for California) and a little less expensive in the rest of the nation (90 percent of average).