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Previously Uninsured Enjoy Better Health with Medicare

Self-reported health scores improve after 65, especially for those with cardiovascular disease or diabetes

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The health of people who don't have health insurance improves once they acquire Medicare coverage at the age of 65, especially if they have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, researchers report in the Dec. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

J. Michael McWilliams, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study to compare health trend changes reported by previously uninsured and insured adults after acquiring Medicare coverage at age 65. The research included 5,006 individuals who had been continuously insured and 2,227 adults who had been uninsured or intermittently insured from the ages of 55 to 64. Data are based on self-reported answers to interviews.

Before the age of 65, summary health scores declined at a greater rate for uninsured adults than for insured adults and were significantly worse at the age of 65. After age 65, the summary health scores of the previously uninsured improved relative to the previously insured. Differential improvements in health trends after age 65 were concentrated among previously uninsured individuals with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The findings were not appreciably altered when adjusted for potential confounders such as race, ethnicity and education.

"Providing earlier health coverage for uninsured adults, particularly those with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, may have considerable social and economic value for the United States by improving health outcomes," the authors conclude.

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