File This One Under "Baseless Claims" for Team Dobbs

Kudos to Media Matters for catching this one:

The need for evidence has rarely been an impediment for Lou Dobbs and his correspondents, but this week, Dobbs’ fill-in host Kitty Pilgrim, in addition to exaggerating the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., made the baseless claim that all undocumented immigrants are uninsured.

From Media Matters:
During the July 27 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs This Week, host Kitty Pilgrim baselessly suggested that all or nearly all undocumented immigrants in the United States are uninsured. Pilgrim asserted, "[T]here are an estimated 47 million people in this country who don't have health insurance. And as we have reported here for years, there are an estimated 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States, and that means illegal aliens likely make up 40 percent of the uninsured in this country."1
Pilgrim's first mistake is to use the figure "20 million" as a legitimate estimate of the undocumented population.  Several journalists have criticized Dobbs and his correspondents for using the inflated number.2  Pilgrim's second mistake is to assume that all undocumented immigrants are uninsured. As Media Matters reports:
[Kitty]Pilgrim did not cite any evidence for her assertion; for it to be true, 18.8 million undocumented immigrants would have to be uninsured. However, as the blog Progress Illinois noted, the National Institute for Health Care Management has estimated that there are 5.6 million undocumented immigrants in this country who are uninsured, not 18.8 million. That number is equal to approximately 12 percent of the uninsured in this country, not 40 percent.3
The National Institute for Health Care Management explains its research methods in its study, “Understanding the Uninsured: Tailoring Policy Solutions for Different Subpopulations”:
As explained in more detail in the Methods Overview at the back of this paper, the estimates presented throughout this paper rely on data as reported by the Census Bureau. These reported data indicate that there are 10 million non-citizens among the 46.5 non-elderly uninsured. Because the CPS [Current Population Survey] does not collect information on legal status among non-citizens, both legal and undocumented immigrants are included in the 10 million. . .

Applying [previous legal status] analysis to the 2007 CPS, we estimate that 5.6 million of the 10 million uninsured non-citizens are undocumented immigrants, whereas 4.4 million are legal residents.4
It should be noted that numerous studies have shown that immigrants, and undocumented immigrants in particular, are less likely to use our nation’s health system, including use of hospital emergency departments.5  A RAND Corporation study in January 2008 found that:
Of the $430 billion in national medical spending in 2000, native-born residents accounted for 87 percent of the population but for 91.5 percent of the spending. . . Undocumented immigrants—3.2 percent of the population—accounted for only about 1.5 percent of medical cost . . . The lower medical spending is driven by lower utilization of services . . . one key reason [being] that immigrants—especially the undocumented— appear to be healthier than native-born residents.6
Truth In Immigration is continually disturbed by Dobbs’ pattern of using unreliable statistics or misinterpreting valid research.7  We hope that in drawing attention to his mistakes, he and his staff will more thoroughly check the evidence for their claims.
1. "Kitty Pilgrim baselessly suggested that nearly all undocumented immigrants are uninsured, study found otherwise," Media Matters For America, July 31, 2008
2. Edward B. Colby, “Dobbs Pins Down Illegal Immigrants, Give or Take 9 Million,” The Columbia Journalism Review, 31 Mar. 2006
3. "Kitty Pilgrim...", supra note 1
4. “Understanding the Uninsured: Tailoring Policy Solutions for Different Subpopulations,” National Institute for Health Care Management, April 2008
5. Mary Engel, "Latinos' use of health services studied," LA Times, 27 Nov 2007
6. "The Public Spends Little to Provide Health Care
for Undocumented Immigrants," RAND Corporation, Jan 2008

7. See, e.g. "Leprosy and Lou: Fact-Checking Lou Dobbs," Truth In Immigration, March 20, 2008; "Dobbs Overstates Immigration as Voter Priority," Truth In Immigration, March 26, 2008; "Lou Dobbs vs. Lou Dobbs," Truth In Immigration, May 27, 2008

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund