Changes in Racial Differences in Use of Medical Procedures and Diagnostic Tests Among Elderly Persons

1986-1997

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, v. 94, no. 10, Oct. 2004, p. 1795-1799

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2003

by Jose J. Escarce, Thomas McGuire

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OBJECTIVES: The authors used 1997 Medicare data to replicate an earlier study that used data from 1986 to examine racial differences in usage of specific medical procedures or tests among elderly persons. METHODS: They used 1997 physician claims data to obtain a random sample of 5% of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older. The authors used this sample to study 30 procedures and tests that were analyzed in the 1986 study, as well as several new procedures that became more widely used in the early 1990s. RESULTS: Racial differences remain in the rates of use of these procedures; in general, Blacks have lower rates of use than do Whites. Between 1986 and 1997, the ratio of White to Black use moved in favor of Blacks for all but 4 of the established procedures studied. CONCLUSIONS: The White-Black gap in health care use under Medicare is narrowing.

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