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Surprising Number of U.S. Elders Do Not Have Health Insurance Coverage - Not Even Medicare
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 01, 2004
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
Policy Studies in Family Practice and Primary Care
1350 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 201
Washington, DC 20036
"Who Are the Uninsured Elderly in the United States," a snapshot of the uninsured elderly, came from the Robert Graham Center: Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care in Washington, D.C. It was published in the April edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
"Because of the Medicare program, it is commonly assumed that all older Americans have health insurance coverage," said James W. Mold, M.D., M.P.H., lead author and a family physician and professor of family medicine. "However, there are hundreds of thousands who do not have coverage, and that number is expected to grow. Is this what we want for our parents, our neighbors or ourselves?"
The researchers sought to describe the size, socio-demographic characteristics and health status of the uninsured elderly in America. The research revealed:
- In 2000, 72.3 percent of the uninsured were age 65 to 74; only 54.4 percent of those with insurance were in that age group. 24.3 percent of the uninsured were 75 to 84, compared with 36.2 percent of the insured; and 3.4 percent of the uninsured were 85 or older, compared with 9.4 percent of the insured.
- Gender did not vary greatly between the uninsured and the insured. 55.5 percent of the uninsured were women, while 57.5 percent of elderly who had insurance were women. 44.5 percent of the uninsured were men, and 42.5 percent of the insured were.
- Marital status varied significantly between the two groups. The uninsured were more likely to be widowed (40.1 percent of the uninsured compared with 32.4 percent of the insured) or never married (6.9 percent compared with 3.5 percent). The uninsured were far less likely to be married (40.8 percent of the uninsured were married compared with 57 percent of the insured).
- Certain racial populations made up a greater proportion of the uninsured than the insured. 16.6 percent of the uninsured were African-American, compared with 8.1 percent of those with insurance. 13.4 percent of the uninsured were Asian and Pacific Islanders, compared with 2.1 percent of the insured. However, 60.8 percent of the uninsured were Caucasian, and 87.9 percent of elderly with insurance were Caucasian. For comparison, in 2000 8.15 of all elders in the U.S. (65 and older) were African-American, 2.21 percent were Asian and Pacific Islanders, and 87.57 percent were Caucasian.
- The proportion of the uninsured who were Hispanic was 35.8 percent, compared with 5.5 percent of those with insurance.
- Well over half - 55.8 percent - of the uninsured were born outside the United States, while 10.4 percent of those with insurance were born outside the country. 51.3 percent of the uninsured were U.S. citizens and 98.1 percent of the insured were U.S. citizens.
- Based on self-rated health status, uninsured elders enjoyed similar to slightly better health than those with insurance. The uninsured were, however, far less likely to have used office-based care, home health care, and phone advice, and they were less likely to have been admitted to a hospital.
- 16.1 percent of the uninsured and 4.4 percent of the insured did not receive and/or delayed receiving needed medical care because of the cost.
"The United States needs a system of universal access to basic health care to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of disenfranchised Americans of all ages, and we as a people need to revisit decisions regarding who to consider Americans for purposes of health care coverage," the researchers recommended.
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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 110,600 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.
Approximately one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 240 million office visits each year — nearly 87 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.
To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org.
The Robert Graham Center conducts research and analysis that brings a family practice perspective to health policy deliberations in Washington. Founded in 1999, the Center is an independent research unit working under the personnel and financial policies of the American Academy of Family Physicians. For more information, please visit www.graham-center.org.
The information and opinions contained in research from the Robert Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.
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