A review of hospital data from 1993 to 2003 showed a 34% increase in emergency department visits by people ages 65 to 74, a higher number than any other age group, according to a study by researchers from George Washington University published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, Reuters reports.
Researchers said that the increase could be attributed to:
Health care advances leading people to live longer lives with chronic diseases; Seniors' barriers to access of timely primary care; and
The rate of those with chronic diseases who could not afford needed primary care before becoming eligible for Medicare. During the 11-year study period, the rate of blacks ages 65 to 74 who visited EDs was 77 visits per 100 people; the rate among whites in the same age group was 36 visits per 100 people.
The study's authors said more research would be needed to determine the reasons for the disparity, but possibilities include: The higher prevalence of diabetes and hypertension in blacks.
Almost twice as many blacks as whites lack health insurance, especially among low-income blacks. "Seniors are using the emergency department more and more frequently, and given the needs of this population and the nature of their medical problems, the current state of overcrowding is likely to continue to escalate dramatically," Mary Pat McKay, a study co-author from GWU's Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said.
"That there is a racial disparity didn't surprise me. What surprised me is that it's getting worse," McKay said, adding, "The system is broken and the point of the study is that it's going to get worse".
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation