A Harvard Medical School study has found that immigrants have contributed billions of dollars more to Medicare in recent years than they have taken out, thus helping to shore up the longevity of the program.
From 2002 to 2009, the study finds, immigrants contributed $115 billion more to Medicare than they took out, while native-born Americans incurred a deficit of $28 billion.
The study counted foreign-born US citizens as well as undocumented immigrants (who are ineligible for most government programs). Though immigrants and native-born Americans contribute to Medicare at roughly the same rate, immigrants take less out of the program because they tend to be younger and healthier.
As Sabrina Tavernise at the New York Times wrote about the findings:
The findings shed light on what demographers have long known: Immigrants are crucial in balancing the age structure of American society, providing an infusion of young, working-age adults who support the country’s aging population and help cover the costs of Medicare and Social Security. And with the largest generation in the United States, the baby boomers, now starting to retire, the financial help from immigrants has never been more needed, experts said.
The study echoes a recent Social Security Administration analysis finding that the Senate Gang of 8 immigration bill will help improve Social Security’s long-term solvency, and that undocumented immigrants contributed a $12 billion surplus to that program in 2010. In contrast to the recent and widely panned Heritage Report, which assumed that immigrants are a drain on society, the HMS and SSA studies find that immigrants are a benefit to programs which—without immigrants—would be in much worse financial shape.
As Leighton Ku, the director of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University told the New York Times:
There’s this strong belief that immigrants are takers. This shows they are contributing hugely. Without immigrants, the Medicare trust fund would be in trouble sooner.