It is well documented by multiple sources that illegal immigrants pay at least $12 Billion each year more in taxes that they receive in social benefits that the rest of us take for granted. These workers come to the U.S. legally, typically on short-term work visas, with the understanding that they pay regular U.S. wage taxes but do not receive the same benefits as citizens who pay wage taxes. They are not eligible for subsidized health insurance on the exchange and are not eligible for state programs that offer worker benefits for disabilities as a result of injuries incurred on the job. As a result, they must pay the full cost of their health care and insurance.
I often receive telephone calls* from financially responsible immigrants and their employers who need to enroll in inbound immigrant health insurance because they do not qualify for the health plans offered to U.S. citizens. I am surprised at how often I hear that they earn enough to pay their U.S. taxes and also pay for 100% of their own health care – something that millions of legal American citizens could not do. While nobody wants to talk about the fact that immigration status has changed from legal to illegal, we understand that is the most pressing concern.
In almost all cases these workers I hear from came to the U.S. on legal work visas but the visa ran out before the job ended and their attorneys are still working on getting the visas extended. Their employers are actively working to keep them on the job. The most common question I receive ask me to confirm that this type of coverage is available regardless of immigration status. There are no questions about immigration status on this application. The second most common question asks me to confirm that their information is safe from federal immigration officers. There is no indication of any problem in the insurance industry in is regard. I’ve heard from officers of these insurance companies many times in industry events and seminars about their commitment to protect the privacy of policyholder data. Additionally, insurance policies are taken out by both legal and illegal immigrants and there is no way to make the distinction based on the information obtained by the insurance company.
Regardless of our political position on the immigration reform issue, we should be clear that many illegal immigrants are financially responsible and are making a positive contribution to our nation’s tax ledgers and financial balance sheet.
* I speak English only but have associates who speak Spanish when this is required. The majority of workers in the construction and food industries that I serve are natives of Spanish language.