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Younger Patients Benefit Less From Medicare

Younger, disabled beneficiaries have more trouble affording health care than those aged 65 and older

THURSDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare does not appear as effective in meeting the health care needs of beneficiaries younger than 65 with disabilities as it is for beneficiaries age 65 and older, according to research published online Aug. 12 in Health Affairs.

Juliette Cubanski and Patricia Neuman, Ph.D., both of the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C., analyzed 2008 survey results from 3,913 Medicare beneficiaries, 2,288 of whom were aged 18 to 64 with permanent disabilities, and 1,625 of whom were aged 65 and older.

The researchers found that the younger population had more trouble affording medications, were two times more likely than the older beneficiaries to suffer from five or more chronic conditions, were more than twice as likely to experience depression, and were four times as likely to have had severe pain in the last month. Half of the younger beneficiaries reported difficulty paying for health care in the last year, compared with 18 percent of older beneficiaries.

"Medicare is not working as well for its eight million disabled beneficiaries under age 65 as it is for its older beneficiaries," the authors write. "One potential remedy is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law includes reforms that could improve access to care and limit out-of-pocket expenses for the non-elderly disabled in Medicare as well as those who are waiting to become eligible for the program."

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