25% of older, low-income Americans lack health insurance.

25% of older, low-income Americans lack health insurance.

The Importance of Health Insurance for Aging Americans

Image

As people age, health issues tend to mount, but roughly a quarter of low-income adults over the age of 65 have no medical insurance. This poses significant challenges, particularly for uninsured seniors who are not eligible for Medicare or those who cannot afford its premiums. The consequences of lacking health insurance during old age can lead to costly hospital stays and avoidable illnesses that require expensive healthcare services.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Sciences University highlights the need for improved access to healthcare for aging Americans. The study focused on electronic health record data for over 45,000 patients who became eligible for Medicare between 2014 and 2019. These patients received medical care at community health centers, which primarily serve individuals with limited finances.

The study revealed that it was more common for Hispanic Americans to lose insurance coverage upon turning 65. Medicare requires participants to be either U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents, rendering undocumented immigrants ineligible for this health coverage. Furthermore, patients with low incomes may struggle to afford Medicare premiums, leaving them without adequate insurance.

One striking finding from the study was that patients often received diagnoses for new chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, after becoming eligible for Medicare. Approximately 86% of patients studied had two or more chronic health conditions after turning 65, compared to 77% of patients below the age of 65. Patients who had been uninsured and later obtained Medicare were diagnosed with more new chronic conditions than patients who had insurance prior to enrolling in Medicare. This suggests that these patients may have unknowingly had chronic conditions before becoming insured.

Having health insurance, such as Medicare, is essential for older Americans to receive the necessary healthcare services. However, having access to healthcare earlier in life can prevent the development or worsening of conditions as individuals age. Therefore, policymakers should prioritize improving access to care for aging Americans, particularly in terms of preventive care.

Furthermore, the study’s authors hope that their research will encourage community health centers to offer more senior-focused care. This would address the specific needs of aging patients and further enhance their overall health and well-being.

The findings of this study highlight the importance of health insurance for aging Americans. It emphasizes the need to ensure that all seniors have access to affordable healthcare, regardless of their financial situation or immigration status. By providing comprehensive health insurance, policymakers can help aging individuals manage their health conditions effectively and prevent unnecessary complications. Ultimately, prioritizing and improving healthcare access for aging Americans will lead to a healthier and happier older population.

Image

More Information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has resources available on healthy aging.

Source: Oregon Health & Science University, news release, Sept. 14, 2023