The value of Medicare coverage on depressive symptoms among older immigrants.

TitleThe value of Medicare coverage on depressive symptoms among older immigrants.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsJun, H, Mattke, S, Chen, A, Aguila, E
ISSN Number1758-5341
Keywordsdepression, Disparities, Health Insurance

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The immigrant population, the primary driver of U.S. population growth, is aging and many immigrants remain uninsured. Lack of health insurance limits access to care, aggravating the already high level of depression for older immigrants. However, there is scarce evidence on how health insurance, particularly Medicare, affects their mental health. Using the Health and Retirement Study, this study examines the effect of Medicare coverage on depressive symptoms of older immigrants in the U.S.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Exploiting the fact that many immigrants are not covered by Medicare after passing age 65, we use a difference-in-difference model with propensity score weighting to compare differences in depressive symptoms pre- and post-age-65. We further stratify the sample by socioeconomic status and by race/ethnicity.

RESULTS: Medicare coverage was significantly associated with a reduction in the probability of reporting depressive symptoms for immigrants with low socioeconomic status, especially for those below median wealth levels. The beneficial effect of Medicare coverage was also statistically significant for non-White immigrants - Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander - even when holding socioeconomic status constant.

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Our findings imply that immigration policies that expand healthcare protection to older immigrants can lead to further health benefits and reduce existing disparities for the aging population. Policy reforms such as providing limited Medicare access to immigrants who paid sufficient taxes but are still awaiting permanent residency status could increase coverage for the uninsured and improve participation of immigrants in the payroll system.

Citation Key13352
PubMed ID37330627