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Undocumented Make Fewer Trips to the Emergency Room

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A UCLA report finds undocumented workers and other immigrants are less likely to seek medical care.

That includes trips to the emergency room.

The findings contradict repeated claims that illegal immigrants are burdening emergency rooms in California.

Dr. Steven Wallace works for UCLA's center for Health Policy Research. He says the notion that undocumented workers, and other immigrants, clog up emergency rooms and drive up the cost of health care, comes from a few hospitals.

"Naturally, if you're in a neighborhood that is 100 percent, or 90 percent or 80 percent immigrant, who is going to come up to your hospital?" Wallace asks. "If you look at the supply of emergency rooms, if you look at the supply of primary care doctors, there are actually fewer emergency room beds and there are fewer doctors in immigrant communities. So, those that are there are going to feel overwhelmed."

But, Wallace says, that's not because immigrants are using medical and health services at higher rates than the rest of the population.

"Immigrants actually use less health care than the equivalent persons born in the U.S.," Wallace says. "The studies…suggest that emergency rooms are overused by the population with private health insurance."

Even if Immigrants have health insurance, they use preventive and emergency room care 50 % less, according to Wallace's research.

Three other studies also came to the same findings. These reports were presented in Denver this week at the American Public Health Association conference.  

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