Background: In 1991, a policy change extended finan cial coverage for biennial mammography to holders of Medicare part B. The impact of this decision on mammography use was examined by comparing mammography use among Medicare-eligible and ineligible women in the years before (1990) and after (1993) the policy change, using National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data, controlling for socioeconomic indicators and for having a usual source of medical care.
Methods: The Medicare-eligible group consists of 2,419 women ages 65-69 years and women ages 60-64 years who are Medicare-eligible. The Medicare-ineligible group consists of 1,872 women ages 60-64 years. The analysis used logistic regressions and compared women who had undergone mammography in the prior 2 years and controlled for race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, insurance status, and usual source of care.
Results: Medicare reimbursement of mammography appears to have increased the number of Medicare-eligible women who had had a mammogram in the 2 years prior to the survey. However, the analyses suggested that disparities in mammography use due to access to primary care and socioeconomic status persisted after the change in Medicare coverage. Analyses indicated that having additional insurance was the only significant predictor of having a usual source of care among the Medicare population.
Conclusions: This analysis suggests that simply removing financial barriers to mammography for older women (such as the 1998 elimination of a deductible payment for mammograms provided under Medicare) may have limited effectiveness. The strong relationship between having a usual source of care and mammography suggests that disparities in mammography use may reflect inequalities in access to health care in general.
Copyright 2000 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.