Universal Health Coverage: Are Older Adults Being Left Behind? Evidence From Aging Cohorts In Twenty-Three Countries
- James Macinko ([email protected]) is a professor in the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California Los Angeles, in Los Angeles, California.
- Flavia Cristina Drumond Andrade is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in Urbana, Illinois.
- Fabiola Bof de Andrade is an assistant professor in the Rene Rachou Research Institute at the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
- Maria Fernanda Lima-Costa is a professor in the Rene Rachou Research Institute, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, and the Public Health Postgraduate Program at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Countries around the world have committed to achieving universal health coverage as part of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon by all United Nations members, intended to be achieved by 2030. But important population groups such as older adults are rarely examined as part of Sustainable Development Goals monitoring and evaluation efforts. This study uses recent (2014–16) high-quality, individual-level data from several aging cohorts representing more than 100,000 adults ages fifty and older in twenty-three high- and middle-income countries. After individual characteristics and health needs were controlled for, national rates varied up to tenfold for poor access (no doctor visit) and threefold for potential overutilization (fifteen or more doctor visits and multiple hospitalizations) in the past year. Catastrophic expenditures (25 percent or more of household income spent out of pocket on health care) averaged 9 percent, with the highest rates observed in middle-income countries and among sicker populations in some high-income countries. Strengthening universal health coverage for older adults will require greater tailoring and targeting of benefits to meet this population’s health needs while protecting them from catastrophic health expenditures.