The effect of immigration status on racial differences in health insurance coverage, access to care, and utilization in the United States

Ibrahima Gning, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Lack of coverage, lack of access, and failure to utilize health care services have all been linked to dismal health outcomes in the US. Such consequences have been a longstanding challenge that US minorities are faced with, in the context of a health care system believed to be lacking efficiency and equity. National population surveys in the US suggest that the number of uninsured approaches 50 millions, while some concerns and suspicions are raised by opponents to the growing number of foreign born US residents, many of whom are Hispanic. Research shows that race is a significant predictor of lack of coverage, access, and utilization, while age, gender, education, and income are also linked to these outcomes. We investigated the potential effect of immigration status or duration in the US on the association between coverage, access, use, and race. Methods. Using National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data of 2006, we selected 22, 667 individuals of Non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and Non-Hispanic White descent, at least 18 years of age, US-born and foreign-born who reported their duration of residence in the US. Through complex sample survey logistic regression analysis, we computed odds ratios, beta coefficients, and 95% confidence intervals using models which excluded then included immigration status. Results. Although a significant predictor of the outcomes, immigration status did not change the relationship between each of the dependent variables (coverage, access, utilization), and the factor race, while adjusting for age, gender, education, and income. Our results show that Hispanics were least likely to have coverage (OR=.58; 95% CI[.49, .68]), access (OR=.62; 95% CI[.50, .76]), and to utilize services (OR=.60; 95% CI[.46, .79]) followed by Non-Hispanic Blacks, and Non-Hispanic Whites. These results were not changed by stratification, or the inclusion of interaction terms to eliminate the potential effect of relationships between independent variables. Recent immigrants (<5 years in>US) were 0.12 times less likely to be insured, but also 0.26 times less likely to utilize services (p<0.001), and in addition they represented only 7.3% of the uninsured and 1.9% of the US population in 2006. Furthermore, 12% of the Non-Hispanic White population in the US was not covered, and 65% of the uninsured individuals were US-Born Citizens. Other predictors of lack of coverage, access and use were age below 45, male gender, education at high school or below, and income of less than $20,000. Conclusion. This investigation shows that the high percentage of uninsured was not directly caused by Hispanics, and immigration status alone could not explain racial differences in coverage, access, and utilization. An immigration reform may not be the solution to the healthcare crisis, and more specifically, will not stop the increase in the number of uninsured in the US, nor reduce the cost of health care. As a better alternative, universal health insu rance coverage should be considered, when aiming to eliminate racial disparities, and to solve the health care crisis. Keywords. health insurance, coverage, access, utilization, race, immigration, disparities.

Subject Area

Statistics|Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Gning, Ibrahima, "The effect of immigration status on racial differences in health insurance coverage, access to care, and utilization in the United States" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3297454.