Medicare, access to care, and health among the elderly
The Medicare program provides health insurance coverage for nearly all elderly individuals aged 65 and over, presenting opportunities to analyze the effects of universal coverage on access to care, health, and other outcomes. Some have suggested that Medicare be expanded to cover non-elderly individuals to achieve universal health insurance coverage in the United States. Further study of the effects of Medicare coverage on a range of outcomes and within special populations may help to inform policymakers of the likely effects of such an expansion. Past research has established that gaining Medicare coverage at age 65 increases access to care and improves outcomes among the elderly. This session will examine the effects of Medicare coverage on outcomes that have received less attention in the literature. The first paper will assess whether gaining Medicare coverage reduces functional and work limitations, potentially extending the working lives of the elderly. The second paper will examine the effects of increased use of primary care on the likelihood of primary care treatable emergency department visits among Medicare beneficiaries using Medicare claims data. The third paper will examine the effects of Medicare coverage on use of preventive vision care and other services as well as vision outcomes among individuals with diagnosed diabetes. The session will conclude with time for discussion and questions from the audience.