Map Shows States That Give Migrants Health Care

As immigrants become a larger portion of the overall U.S. population, health insurance has been an increasing concern as states look to manage their healthcare costs while protecting residents in need of medications and treatment.

There are roughly 21.2 million noncitizen immigrants living in America, as of 2022, making up approximately 7 percent of the U.S. population.

Undocumented immigrants often face difficulties in acquiring health coverage, and a recent KFF study, formerly The Kaiser Family Foundation, found there were only four states where all adult immigrants qualify for state coverage. That list included California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

However, a dozen states and D.C. offer fully state-funded coverage for income-eligible children no matter their immigration status, and some extend that to pregnant women as well.

Only four states offer insurance coverage to adults regardless of immigration status. That included California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

While many offer Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program options for select immigrants, others typically have to resort to going through life with high out-of-pocket health costs and the fear that illness or accident could strike at any time.

However, this is a dangerous risk for both the immigrants and Americans more broadly, as health insurance payers end up taking on the costs of uninsured treatments equally.

“Prevention is cost-effective long-term,” finance expert Michael Ryan, also the founder of, told Newsweek. “Providing routine immigrant care catches issues early before costly emergencies. We all pay for uninsured emergency bills eventually.”

Among undocumented immigrant adults, half report being uninsured nationwide, and that number is still high, at 18 percent, for “lawfully present” immigrant adults.

Immigrant EMS
EMS medics with the Houston Fire Department transport a woman, 59, an immigrant from Mexico, to the hospital on August 12, 2020, in Houston, Texas. Adult immigrants only receive full state insurance coverage in Washington,…

John Moore/Getty Images

What Causes The Insurance Gap?

Several variables are at play when it comes to the low insurance coverage rate for immigrants.

While a large percentage of Americans rely on their employer-run health insurance, many immigrants do not have this option in the jobs available to them. That, plus the eligibility requirements for state-run Medicaid and CHIP, can leave them without coverage.

Most states only offer Medicaid or CHIP to “qualified” immigrants. After reaching this status, you typically have to wait five years to enroll. The law does allow states to forego that rule for children and pregnant women, and currently, 37 states have undergone this option.

Living in a state without expansive coverage for immigrants has real impacts, statistics show. The 2023 KFF/LA Times Survey of Immigrants revealed that immigrants living in states with more expansive coverage policies for immigrants had higher rates of health coverage and were also less likely to postpone or go without care.

For those states that do opt to provide health insurance coverage to immigrants and migrants, it can often be a smart long-term financial move, said Alex Beene, a financial literacy instructor at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

“It’s easy to see why,” Beene told Newsweek. “It’s costing money to both the immigrant and migrant populations, but more importantly healthcare providers are missing out on bills that go unpaid or unfulfilled.”

Ultimately, Beene said providing coverage will benefit both immigrants and healthcare providers in the long run.

“As for other states, it really is more of a math question,” Beene said. “If immigrant and migrant communities continue to expand in other states, then extending coverage could be a wise decision.”

DACA Recipients Get Coverage

President Joe Biden said earlier this month that participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) would soon be able to enroll in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance. This group includes immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Starting November, roughly 100,000 DACA participants will be able to enroll in government-provided health insurance.

The prior DACA policy also allows these former immigrant children to be protected from deportation and the ability to work legally in the United States.

“Today’s rule also reinforces the President’s enduring commitment to DACA recipients and Dreamers, who contribute daily to the strength and vitality of our communities and our country,” a recent White House statement said.