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Familiarity with Medicare Affects Access to Health Care

Limited understanding of system linked to delayed care and poorer self-reported health

THURSDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare beneficiaries who have limited familiarity with the system may have more problems accessing health care, which could lead to poorer health outcomes, according to a report published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Robert O. Morgan, Ph.D., of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, and colleagues surveyed 2,997 white, black and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries in 2004.

The researchers found that subjects with limited understanding of the Medicare system were more likely to receive delayed care, make repeated visits to emergency departments, underuse prescription medications, and report poorer and declining health. Although black and Hispanic subjects were more likely than whites to be unfamiliar with the system, the association between familiarity and health care access persisted after the researchers controlled for race and ethnicity, plan enrollment status, age and socioeconomic factors.

"The design and targeting of information campaigns and special programs aimed at increasing knowledge need careful consideration and may be critical for improving the access and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries," the authors conclude.

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