Low-income elderly patients more likely to have multiple chronic diseases

Nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 65 years or older suffer from at least two chronic health conditions, and seniors in the lowest income bracket are more likely to suffer from four or more comorbidities, according to the CDC's most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

For the report, researchers analyzed data compiled in the National Health Interview Survey taken from 2013 to 2015. Survey respondents were questioned about the following morbidities: hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, hepatitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, current asthma and kidney failure.

Thirteen percent of seniors reported suffering from none of the 10 chronic conditions. Twenty-five percent reported suffering from one condition, 46 percent reported suffering from two or three conditions and 16 percent had four chronic health conditions. Participants with at least four comorbidities were more likely to be among the most impoverished seniors. Poverty level was determined by family income and family size using the U.S. Census Bureau poverty thresholds.

"The data are important given the role that Medicaid plays in paying for care for low-income people already in Medicare," wrote Mary Caffrey in the American Journal for Managed Care. "Medicaid pays for things like long-term nursing home care for those at the lowest income levels. The program also covers some premiums and cost-sharing for those who would be unable to pay."

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