More than one-quarter of Americans over the age of 65 — an age when most people are in need of increased medical care — don’t have any form of health insurance, according to a study released by Oregon Health & Science University. This leaves many elderly Americans one medical bill away from financial ruin.
The results of the study indicate that it is more common for Hispanics over the age of 65 to be without health insurance coverage, compared with other demographics. Most Americans become eligible for Medicare at 65, but individuals must be American citizens or permanent legal residents to receive coverage. Some individuals are also unable to afford the premiums to receive Medicare coverage.
“It’s particularly concerning to think of older adults not having health insurance, given that the prevalence of disease and related complications increase with age,” says the study’s corresponding author, Nathalie Huguet, Ph.D., an associate professor of family medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine, in a university release. “It’s more challenging to manage health conditions in the United States without insurance. This can lead to costly hospital stays and avoidable illnesses that require expensive health care services.”
Nearly 90% of the individuals whose health records were part of the study were diagnosed with chronic health conditions after they turned 65, according to the study. About 86% of the patients had two or more chronic health conditions, like high blood pressure, after they turned 65, compared with 77% beforehand.
“It’s likely these patients unknowingly had chronic conditions for beforehand,” Prof. Huguet explains. “Medicare enables older Americans to receive the essential health care that they need. However, having access to health care earlier in life can also prevent conditions from developing or getting worse as we age.”