The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


Emergency room entrance of Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania at night on March 30. 

Credit: Kylie Cooper

A recent study conducted by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics has found that the racial disparity in avoidable hospitalizations for Medicare private plan beneficiaries is even greater than for traditional Medicare beneficiaries. 

Conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart failure are "ambulatory-care sensitive conditions,"for which hospitalization can be prevented with effective early treatment, according to Penn Today. Subsequent to this research, there was hope that Medicare Advantage private plans would narrow a racial gap which was found to exist between hospitalizations for ambulatory-care sensitive conditions between Black and white patients. Unlike original Medicare, Medicare Advantage provides coverage for seniors through private insurance companies.

The research, which was led by Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics Senior Fellow Norma Coe and published in public health journal Medical Care, adds another data point to the already established idea that race is an indicator of health outcomes. In July, Penn Medicine researchers were granted $2.9 million to study racial disparities in the risk for cardiovascular disease among cancer patients and survivors.

Despite the prevalence of these disparities, Black and Latinx people are increasingly enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans. The percentage of Medicare beneficiaries on a private plan is projected to grow to more than 50% by 2030. 

The study also found that the Black beneficiaries are more likely to be covered under lower-quality Medicare Advantage plans and may have more limited access to primary care compared to their white counterparts, Penn Today reported.

Since Medicare was enacted, the program has reduced racial disparities in health outcomes. Although disparities continue to exist, they are significantly reduced once someone turns 65 and becomes eligible for Medicare, Yale News reported. Flu vaccination rates, self-reported health assessments, racial disparities, and the ability to see a physician all substantially improve when people enroll in Medicare.