Lowering Medicare Age Requirements Could Help Reduce Racial, Ethnic Disparities, Study Finds
Lowering the age at which people are eligible for Medicare might help reduce health disparities that minorities face -- including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol -- according to a study released on Monday and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Reuters Health reports.
For the study -- sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund -- researcher John Ayanian, a professor of health care policy at Harvard University, and colleagues examined data on more than 6,000 people ages 40 to 85 who underwent extensive medical exams as part of a national survey. The participants had at least one of four conditions -- diabetes, high-blood pressure, coronary heart disease or a stroke (Fox, Reuters Health, 4/20).
Researchers found that although overall improvements have been made in controlling such conditions, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities remain. In some cases, the conditions were worse among those younger than age 65, the minimum age for Medicare eligibility. Among the Medicare-eligible group, researchers found that:
- Racial disparities decreased by 60% for blood pressure;
- Educational disparities decreased by 83% and racial and ethnic disparities fell by 78% for blood sugar levels; and
- Educational disparities were eliminated completely for cholesterol levels (United Press International, 4/20).
According to the study, "In particular, because black, Hispanic and less-educated adults are much more likely to be uninsured or underinsured, expanding insurance coverage may be especially beneficial for these groups." Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said in a statement, "The results of this study make it clear that guaranteeing access to affordable insurance for all Americans is the essential first step toward a high performing health care system and a healthier America" (Reuters Health, 4/20).
The study is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.