Racial and Socioeconomic Differences in Eye Care Utilization among Medicare Beneficiaries with Glaucoma


Halawa OA, Kolli A, Oh G, Mitchell WG, Glynn RJ, Kim DH, Friedman DS, Zebardast N. Racial and Socioeconomic Differences in Eye Care Utilization among Medicare Beneficiaries with Glaucoma. Ophthalmology 2022;129(4):397-405.

Date Published:

2022 Apr


PURPOSE: Evaluate differences in eye care utilization among patients with glaucoma by race and socioeconomic status (SES). DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. PARTICIPANTS: Representative 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries aged > 65 years with continuous part A/B enrollment between January 1, 2014, and July 1, 2014, at least 1 diagnosis code for glaucoma within that period, and a glaucoma diagnosis in the Chronic Conditions Warehouse before January 1, 2014. METHODS: The following race/ethnicity categories were defined in our cohort: non-Hispanic White, Black/African American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander. Low SES was defined as having 2 or more enrollment-based low-income indicators (dual eligibility for Medicare/Medicaid, Part D limited income subsidies, and eligibility for Part A and B State buy-in). Negative binomial regression analyses were carried out to compare relative rate ratios (RRs) of eye care utilization among racial groups stratified by low and non-low SES. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Measured from July 1, 2014, to December 31, 2016: eye examinations and eye care-related office visits; eye care-related inpatient and emergency department (ED) encounters; eye care-related nursing home and home-visit encounters; visual field and retinal nerve fiber OCT tests; glaucoma lasers and surgeries. RESULTS: Among 78 526 participants with glaucoma, mean age was 79.1 years (standard deviation, 7.9 years), 60.9% were female, 78.4% were non-Hispanic White, and 13.8% met enrollment-based criteria for low-SES. Compared with White beneficiaries, Blacks had lower counts of outpatient visits (RR, 0.92; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.90-0.93), visual field (VF) tests (RR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.90-0.94), but more inpatient/ED encounters (RR, 2.42; 95% CI, 1.55-3.78) and surgeries (RR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.03-1.27). Hispanics had fewer outpatient visits (RR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.95-0.98) and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) OCT tests (RR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.86-0.93), but more inpatient/ED encounters (RR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.18-4.57) and selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) (RR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.11-1.42) versus non-Hispanic Whites. In the non-low SES group, Black versus White disparities persisted in outpatient visits (RR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.92-0.95), VF (RR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.94-0.98), RNFL OCT (RR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.78-0.83), and inpatient/ED encounters (RR, 2.57; 95% CI, 1.55-4.26). CONCLUSIONS: Disparities were found in eye care utilization among Black and Hispanic patients with glaucoma. These differences persisted among Blacks after stratification by SES, suggesting that systemic racism may be an independent driver in this population.

Last updated on 05/01/2022