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Contact by Collection Agencies for Medical Debt: Rural-Urban Differences Among Older and Younger Medicare Beneficiaries

Publication Date: December 3rd, 2020
Publication Type(s): Peer-reviewed Journal Publications
Topic(s): , ,
Author(s): Henning-Smith C, Lahr M, Hernandez A

Abstract: “Geographic disparities in health and health care are increasingly well-documented, as are financial barriers to accessing care. Still, less is known about whether Medicare beneficiaries differ in their ability to pay for care by rurality. Using data from the 2016 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (n = 12,688 U.S. community-dwelling beneficiaries), we analyzed rural-urban differences in rates of collection agency contact for unpaid medical bills using chi-square tests and multivariable logistic regression for the full sample and by age (65+ and <65). Nearly 10% of Medicare beneficiaries had been contacted by a collection agency for medical debt in the previous year, with higher percentages among rural beneficiaries (8% for urban vs 10% for rural micropolitan and 11% for rural noncore, p < .05). This difference attenuated after adjusting for educational attainment and income, suggesting that attention to socio-economic status among rural Medicare beneficiaries would help to address financial barriers to care and decrease medical debt.”

Published in: Journal of Applied Gerontology

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