Insurance can reduce health disparities

April 20, 2009 at 9:53 PM
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BOSTON, April 20 (UPI) -- Universal healthcare coverage may reduce numerous types of health disparities in the general population, officials of a U.S. non-profit group said.

J. Michael McWilliams and colleagues at Harvard University in Boston reviewed health data from more than 6,000 people ages 40-85 with diabetes, high-blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that while overall improvements have been made in controlling the diseases, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic differences have remained the same or in some cases worsened in the pre-Medicare population.

However, at age 65 when people become eligible for healthcare coverage under the Medicare program, differences in health by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status were reduced significantly.

The study said:

-- For systolic blood pressure, racial disparities decreased by 60 percent.

-- For blood sugar levels with diabetes, educational disparities decreased by 83 percent, while racial and ethnic disparities fell by 78 percent.

-- For total cholesterol levels, educational disparities disappeared altogether.

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