Objectives: Minorities have worse health outcomes compared to whites, which are partially explained by racial/ethnic disparities in use of health services. Less well known, however, are whether these disparities persist among the elderly, the only group that possesses near universal health insurance coverage by Medicare, and how variation in Medicare coverage affects the receipt of preventive services. The scope of racial/ethnic disparities in the use of preventive services in the elderly was assessed, and the impact of the type of health insurance coverage on the use of preventive services was measured.
Methods: Data were derived from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, a random-digit-dial population-based survey, collected between November 2000 and October 2001. Analysis for this project was conducted in 2004. The association of race/ethnicity and type of health insurance with receipt of preventive services was assessed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models.
Results: African Americans and Latinos were significantly less likely to be vaccinated for influenza, and Asian Americans were significantly less likely to obtain a mammogram compared to whites, while controlling for other explanatory factors. Moreover, those with Medicare plus Medicaid coverage were significantly less likely to use all four preventive services compared to those with Medicare plus private supplemental insurance.
Conclusions: Despite near-universal coverage by Medicare, racial/ethnic disparities in the use of some preventive services among the elderly persist. Further research should focus on identifying potential cultural and structural barriers to receipt of preventive services aimed at designing effective intervention among high-risk groups.