Health Care Use Dropped Among All During Recession

Little evidence of racial or ethnic disparities, except for fewer physician visits for Hispanics

TUESDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Health care use declined significantly among all races and ethnicities during the recession from 2007 to 2009, with the only ethnic disparity being fewer physician visits by Hispanics compared with whites, according to a study published online Jan. 7 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Karoline Mortensen, Ph.D., and Jie Chen, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland in College Park, compared health care use using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for 54,007 adults (30,760 non-Hispanic whites; 9,822 non-Hispanic African-Americans; and 13,425 Hispanics) before (2005 to 2006) and during the recession (2008 to 2009).

The researchers found that across all races and ethnicities there were significantly fewer prescription drug fills (incident rate ratio, 0.91) and inpatient stays (incident rate ratio, 0.90) during the recession. There was no significant overall recession-linked decrease in physician visits or emergency department use. However, Hispanics had significantly fewer physician visits than whites during the recession.

"Although minorities bore the brunt of the recession in terms of losses in employment, income, and insurance, our findings suggest that trends in use patterns were similar across race and ethnicity," Mortensen and Chen conclude. "The only evidence of ethnic disparities is the statistically significant finding that Hispanics reduced office-based physician visits more than whites during the recession."

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