AUSTIN, Texas—Substantial racial and ethnic disparities in income and assets among the elderly exist in the United States and consequently many older Mexican-Americans are facing serious deficiencies in health care coverage, according to a study involving two researchers from The University of Texas at Austin.
The study by Ronald J. Angel, Ph.D., and Jacqueline Angel, Ph.D., of The University of Texas at Austin, working with Kyriakos S. Markides, Ph.D., of The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, will appear in the August issue of The American Journal of Public Health.
Their research shows that the relative health care disadvantage Hispanics face in earlier years persists into old age and has potentially serious health consequences. The researchers said the economic disadvantage many Mexican-Americans encounter when they grow old is a continuation of having been disproportionately represented among the poor in the United States across the life cycle.
Older Hispanics are far less likely than older non-Hispanic whites to have private pensions or significant assets, so many of them depend on Medicare for access to health care, according to the study. Sometimes, however, even health care through Medicare is not affordable to them.
“Medicare premiums and co-payments, as well as the portion of hospitalization costs that must be paid by the patient and the cost of uncovered services, including prescription drugs, can be substantial. If such costs are too high, individuals may simply do without needed health care,” the researchers said.
Jacqueline Angel said her conclusion from the study is that Congress and other public leaders must commit to finding ways to improve and strengthen Medicare as a federal program that guarantees affordable, high-quality and comprehensive health care to all entitled seniors, as well as people with disabilities.
“Likewise, adequate reimbursement to providers caring for older Medicare recipients should be an urgent priority,” she said.