The health advantage, however, is not passed on as immigrants' children and grandchildren adopt America's high-fat diet and sedentary lifestyle.
"What we need are policies that make low-premium [insurance] plans available for people who are working," Delgado said. "It's a Catch-22: If you're working, you can't get public assistance, but there may not be any way for you to get health insurance."
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A study found that more than 11 million immigrants were uninsured in 2003, about 25% of the 45 million people the U.S. Census estimated lacked health insurance. How the numbers break down:
*--* Uninsured, by immigration status: (U.S. population under age 65, 2003) *--*
*--* Native, 31.5 million - 70.5% Foreign-born, not a U.S. citizen, 9.4 million - 21.1% Foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, 2.2 million - 5.0% Native children with two foreign-born parents 1.5 million - 3.4% *--*
*--* Population uninsured, by immigration status: (U.S. population under age 65, 2003) *--*
*--* Native - 14.7% Native children with two foreign-born parents - 17.8 Foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizen - 21.2 Foreign-born, not a citizen - 47.1 *--*
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute