Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform often complain that undocumented immigrants are entering the United States and living off of government programs that “hard-working, tax-paying Americans” fund. A new study disproves this notion, showing that immigrant workers are paying more into Medicare than they take out, helping to keep the financially beleaguered program solvent.
The release of the study, which was conducted by Harvard Medical School and published in the June issue of the journal Health Affairs, comes amid the debate in Washington over the proposed bipartisan immigration reform bill, which includes a pathway to citizenship for those currently living in the U.S. out of status. The key findings of the study show that:
In 2009, immigrants contributed $33 billion to the Medicare trust fund, and received just $19 billion of its expenditures. That is a net gain for the treasury of $14 billion.
Individuals who were born in the United States contributed $192 billion and received $223 billion, a net deficit of $31 billion.
There are more immigrants at working age now than there are at retirement age.
The U.S.-born population is aging at a faster rate than it is reproducing.
The immigrant population is skewed to the young to such an extent that there are 6.5 immigrants at working age for every one retirement-age. In contrast, there are only 4.7 working-age U.S.-born citizens for every one retiree. Medicare contributions from immigrant workers are largely keeping the fund healthy enough to pay baby boomers their needed benefits.
The findings of the study also suggest that allowing legal status for undocumented immigrants would result in even more money flowing into the Medicare fund, since more immigrant workers would be paid “on the books.” In addition, if immigrant workers could attain higher paying jobs, this would also result in more tax revenue from their work products. It now seems clear that the flow of younger immigrant workers into our nation’s economy will help ensure that the aging population of the U.S. will be able to receive their expected Medicare benefits for the near future.