More than half of Americans think immigrants are at least partly responsible for the nation's high health care costs.
Moreover, there's a widespread notion that immigrants — especially those in the country illegally — are siphoning off resources intended to pay for the health care of native-born Americans.
The Trump administration is considering a rule change that would bar new immigrants deemed likely to draw on public benefits and prevent those already here from achieving permanent legal resident status if they do.
Many Americans support such policies. "If even one dollar is spent on any child here illegally," says Dr. Rob Tenery, a Dallas ophthalmologist who blogs about health and politics, "it's a dollar diverted from some other social services, unless they pay for it out of their own pockets."
Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, a psychiatrist and ethicist at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, says many Americans "just have this sort of general conception that foreigners who are coming across our borders trying to get a better life for themselves...[are] all just moochers."
Boyd spends a lot of his time advocating for immigrants — in particular, testifying on behalf of those seeking asylum. So he was receptive when Tufts Medical School student Lila Flavin proposed a deep dive into the question: Just how much of a drain on the U.S. health care system are immigrants?
Their analysis, published in the International Journal of Health Services, may surprise many.
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