Why an Immigration-Status Check Will Make Your Insurance Premium Higher

As I’ve said before, the argument that there should be a test of immigration status before someone becomes eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance is reasonable clear even if it’s not a sentiment I find particularly compelling. But the idea of adding an immigration status check to letting people buy insurance on a regulated exchange with their own money is genuinely nuts. Andrew Romano points out that this will make health insurance more expensive, not cheaper:

Consider a few statistics. According to a July article in the American Journal of Public Health, immigrants typically arrive in America during their prime working years and tend to be younger and healthier than the rest of the U.S. population. As a result, health-care expenditures for the average immigrant are 55 percent lower than for a native-born American citizen with similar characteristics. With the ratio of seniors to workers projected to increase by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030, it stands to reason that including the relatively healthy, relatively employable and largely uninsured illegal population in some sort of universal health-care system would be a boon rather than a burden. “Insurance in principle has to cover the average medical cost of all the people it’s serving,” explains Leighton Ku, a professor of health policy at George Washington University. “So if you add cheaper people to the pool, like immigrants, you reduce the average cost.” More undocumented workers, in other words, means lower premiums for everyone.

We’re talking about implementing, in essence, a policy based on pure spite that’s not going to accomplish anything to improve citizens’ lives. Meanwhile, folks should attend to Andrea Nill’s point that stringent verification mechanisms tend to mostly wind up excluding legal residents who just have problems with their paperwork. Members of congress ought to consider the reality that voting mostly happens retrospectively. If you’re going to vote yes on a controversial health care package, your best defense is going to be making sure the package works well when implemented. These efforts to deflect immigration-related criticism are undermining the more important need to make the bill work as well as possible for most people.