Racial and Ethnic Health Inequities and Medicare
Health Status and Disease Prevalence
Larger Shares of Black and Hispanic Beneficiaries Than White Beneficiaries Report Relatively Poor Health Across Selected Health Measures
More than a third of Black and Hispanic beneficiaries (34% and 37%, respectively) report being in fair or poor health, compared to 21% of White beneficiaries (Figure 11). Black and Hispanic beneficiaries are more likely than White beneficiaries to have any limitation in activities of daily living (37%, 33%, and 27%, respectively), which is defined as difficulty performing any activities of daily living (e.g., bathing, eating). Limitations in activities of daily living are associated with increased risk of hospitalization, admission to a long-term care facility, and mortality among Medicare beneficiaries.1,2 Additionally, a larger share of Black (26%) and Hispanic (28%) beneficiaries than White beneficiaries (19%) have a cognitive impairment.
Black and Hispanic Beneficiaries have Higher Prevalence Rates of Certain Chronic Conditions Than White Beneficiaries
The prevalence of certain diseases and chronic conditions varies by race and ethnicity among Medicare beneficiaries. Hypertension is highly prevalent among all Medicare beneficiaries (63%); however, Black and Hispanic beneficiaries have higher rates of hypertension than White beneficiaries (79%, 65%, and 60%, respectively) (Figure 12, Table 3). Additionally, close to half of Black and Hispanic beneficiaries have diabetes, compared to 30% of White beneficiaries. Research has shown that among Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes, Black and Hispanic beneficiaries have the highest amputation rates.3 While the prevalence of stroke is low among all Medicare beneficiaries, the rate is higher among Black beneficiaries than White beneficiaries.
For other conditions, Black and/or Hispanic beneficiaries have lower prevalence rates than White beneficiaries, including cancer, where prevalence rates are 15% for both Black and Hispanic beneficiaries and 19% for White beneficiaries (Table 3). While a larger share of Hispanic beneficiaries (32%) than White (26%) beneficiaries report depression, a smaller share of Black beneficiaries (21%) report depression compared to White beneficiaries. Hispanic beneficiaries have lower prevalence rates of heart disease (25%) and pulmonary disease (16%) than White beneficiaries (33% and 20%, respectively) (Table 3).