Becoming eligible for Medicare coverage at age 65 does not immediately reverse increased risks of mortality or serious health problems for people who were previously uninsured, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. However, after two years of Medicare coverage, the health of seniors who were previously uninsured improved and their mortality risk decreased, the study found.
For the study, researchers funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analyzed interview data from the Health and Retirement Study for 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002. The authors considered interview data from two years before and two years after beneficiaries reached the age-eligibility requirement for Medicare.
The researchers concluded that policymakers should allow the uninsured to buy into Medicare or Medicaid during the eight years before reaching age 65, a move that previous research estimated would reduce by $19 billion government spending during beneficiaries' first five years of Medicare coverage (Baker et al., Journal of General Internal Medicine, November 2006).