Background: Little is known regarding the impact of transitions in frailty on healthcare use and payment in older Mexican Americans. We address this gap in knowledge by investigating the effect of early transitions in physical frailty on the use of healthcare services and Medicare payments involving older Mexican Americans.
Methods: Longitudinal analyses were conducted using the Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiological Study of the Elderly (Hispanic-EPESE) survey data from five Southwest states linked to the Medicare claims files from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Seven hundred and eighty-eight community-dwelling Mexican Americans 72 years and older in 2000/01 were studied. We used a modified Frailty Phenotype (unintentional weight loss, weakness, self-reported exhaustion and slow walking speed) to classify frailty status (non-frail, pre-frail or frail). Each participant was placed into one of 5 frailty transition groups: 1) remain non-frail, 2) remain pre-frail, 3) remain frail, 4) improve (pre-frail to non-frail, frail to non-frail, frail to pre-frail) and 5) worse (non-frail to pre-frail, non-frail to frail, pre-frail to frail). The outcomes for the one-year follow-up period (2000-2001) were: (a) healthcare use (hospitalization, emergency room [ER] admission and physician visit); and (b) Medicare payments (total payment and outpatient payment).
Results: Mean age was 78.8 (SD = 5.1) years and 60.3% were female in 1998/99. Males who remained pre-frail (Odds Ratio [OR] = 3.49, 1.13-10.8, remained frail OR = 6.92, 1.61-29.7) and transitioned to worse frail status (OR = 4.49, 1.74-11.6) had significantly higher hospitalization risk compared to individuals who remained non-frail. Males in the 'worsened' groups, and females in the 'improved' groups, had significantly higher Medicare payments than individuals who remained non-frail (Cost Ratio [CR] = 2.00, 1.30-3.09; CR = 1.53, 1.12-2.09, respectively].
Conclusions: Healthcare use and Medicare payments differed by frailty transition status. The differences varied by sex. Research is necessary to elucidate the relationship between frailty transitions and outcomes, sex difference and Medicare payment for older Mexican Americans living in the community.
Keywords: Diversity; Elderly; Frailty; Healthcare cost; Mexican Americans; Minority health.