Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Burden and Cost of Diabetes for US Medicare Beneficiaries

Health Equity. 2019 May 15;3(1):211-218. doi: 10.1089/heq.2019.0004. eCollection 2019.


Purpose: To examine the burden and cost of diabetes among fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries. Methods: Medicare 5% File data for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) consisting of 1,397,933 enrollees in fee-for-service without Medicare Advantage during the period 2012-2013 were analyzed by race and ethnicity. Results: Although non-Hispanic whites (nHWs) comprised most of this population (86%), prevalence of T1D and T2D was higher for Hispanics than nHWs (3.4% vs. 1.8%, p=0.0006, for T1D and 33.4% vs. 21.9%, p<0.0001, for T2D). Hispanics also had more acute hospital admissions (p=0.0235 for T1D and p=0.0009 for T2D) and longer lengths of stay (7.5 vs. 6.9 days for T1D, p=0.0105, and 6.7 vs. 6.2 days for T2D, p<0.0001) compared with nHWs. Allowed and paid costs per member per month adjusted for confounding were higher for Hispanics than nHWs for T2D (both p<0.0001) and lower for those with T1D (both p<0.0001). Mean number of chronic diseases in patients with diabetes was higher in Hispanics than nHWs (both T1D and T2D, p<0.0000). For T2D, Hispanics were more likely to have glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and lipid testing as well as nephropathy screening (all p<0.0001). Hispanics with T1D were also more likely to have HbA1c and lipid tests (p=0.0014 and p=0.0011, respectively); retinopathy and nephropathy screening rates did not differ significantly from rates among nHWs. Conclusion: Diabetes disproportionately impacts US seniors, with Hispanics almost twice as likely as nHWs to be diagnosed. Racial and ethnic disparities exist in the burden and cost of diabetes care for Medicare recipients.

Keywords: Hispanic population; Medicare; burden of diabetes; elderly; health care; public health.