OBJECTIVES: To evaluate African American-White differences in medical debt among older adults and the extent to which economic and health factors explained these.
METHODS: We used nationally representative data from the 2007 and 2010 US Health Tracking Household Survey (n = 5838) and computed population-based estimates of medical debt attributable to economic and health factors with adjustment for age, gender, marital status, and education.
RESULTS: African Americans had 2.6 times higher odds of medical debt (odds ratio = 2.62; 95% confidence interval = 1.85, 3.72) than did Whites. Health status explained 22.8% of the observed disparity, and income and insurance explained 19.4%. These factors combined explained 42.4% of the observed disparity. In addition, African Americans were more likely to be contacted by a collection agency and to borrow money because of medical debt, whereas Whites were more likely to use savings.
CONCLUSIONS: African Americans incur substantial medical debt compared with Whites, and more than 40% of this is mediated by health status, income, and insurance disparities. Public health implications. In Medicare, low-income beneficiaries, especially low-income African Americans with poor health status, should be protected from the unintended financial consequences of cost-reduction strategies.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jeroan_allison/249/