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Medicare Reduces Racial and Ethnic Disparities

July 28, 2021

Changes in Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Access to Care and Health Among US Adults at Age 65 Years
JAMA Internal Medicine
July 26, 2021
By Jacob Wallace et al.

Question:  Is Medicare eligibility associated with reductions in racial and ethnic disparities in access to care and health?

Findings:  In this cross-sectional study using a regression discontinuity design, eligibility for Medicare at age 65 years was associated with reductions in racial and ethnic disparities in insurance coverage, access to care, and self-reported health across the US.

Meaning:  Expanding eligibility for Medicare may be a viable means to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and advance health equity by closing gaps in insurance coverage.

JAMA Int Med Editorial
By Robert Steinbrook, MD

As we have observed before, it is a national disgrace that despite the trillions of dollars spent on health care, the US is alone among developed nations in not providing health care to all its citizens.

The study by Wallace et al provides additional evidence that providing health care for all may reduce disparities in health and improve access and equity in the health care system.

Comment by Don McCanne

Advocates of single payer Medicare for All certainly understand that such a program would provide health care coverage for everyone in a system that would make it affordable for each of us, simply by funding a universal risk pool with progressive taxes.

What has been a major concern for those of us supporting health care justice for all is that racial and ethnic disparities, with their inherent injustices, currently permeate our health care system. This very important study demonstrates that such disparities would be almost completely eliminated by adopting a universal program based on Medicare.

It is time to bring an end to the ridiculous discussions about there being many ways to expand health care coverage. It is time to enact and implement the program that we know would work well for all of us in America: single payer, improved Medicare for all.


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