Because of the Medicare program, a common assumption is made that virtually all older Americans have health insurance coverage. Data from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey were analyzed to estimate the number of people aged 65 and older without health insurance; their stated reasons for being uninsured; and the associations between lack of insurance and sociodemographic variables, health status, and access to and use of healthcare services.
In 2000, there were approximately 350,000 older Americans with no health insurance. Those without insurance were more likely to be younger, Hispanic, nonwhite, unmarried (widowed, divorced, or never married), poor, and foreign-born. They were less likely to hold U.S. citizenship. Despite relatively high rates of chronic medical conditions, they were unlikely to receive outpatient or home healthcare services. The most common reason given for lack of insurance was its cost.
This study reveals important gaps in the availability of health insurance for the elderly, gaps that are likely to affect an increasing number of older Americans in the coming decade.