In the current debate over comprehensive immigration reform, the focus on immigrants’ access to health benefits has been exclusively focused on the costs associated with providing healthcare rather than the potential social gains from investing in a healthy population. The health of immigrant women especially has been completely left out of discussions which is problematic for many reasons. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 54.6 percent of foreign born women were participants in the labor force in 2010. These immigrant women help make up the current work force, raise the future workforce, care for the elderly and sick, and play a crucial role in household well-being. Women’s contributions to the economy are not only immediate, but impactful upon the future.
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The World Health Organization says that women’s health is an urgent priority demanding greater attention. There are strong indicators that investing in women’s health leads to economic growth. Evidence points to the fact that immigrant women are among the most marginalized groups that are excluded from the health system. A recent study by the National Population Council of Mexico and the University of California provided insights about the health outcomes of Mexican immigrant women. According to the study, there are about 5.4 million Mexican women in the U.S. but because of the vast majority work in the informal sector, their access to employer-based health insurance is severely restricted. “Mexican women have the lowest levels of health insurance coverage of all ethnic groups in the United States”.
Despite having lower socioeconomic status, low levels of health insurance coverage and using limited health services, statistics show immigrant women are overall in a better state of health than might be expected. While the specifics of the reform package focus on eventually legalizing undocumented immigrants, some oppose giving the newly legalized population access to affordable health coverage. Considering the societal goals of disease prevention and the health of the population as a whole, excluding an entire group of immigrants many not be the best idea. From a financial point of view, bringing a large pool of mostly healthy young people into coverage could be beneficial. Once the immigration reform bill is decided on, the next step will have to deal with including the new citizens to have the same access to healthcare that Americans have.
If you have questions regarding the new immigration reform, applying for a visa or the changing immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.