To determine whether health insurance expansions via a Medicare buy‐in might plausibly increase mammography screening rates among women aged 50–64.
Two waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) (1994, 1996).
A longitudinal study with most explanatory variables measured at the second wave of HRS (1994); receipt of mammography, number of physician visits, and breast self exam (BSE) were measured at the third wave (1996).
Our sample included women aged 50–62 in 1994 who answered the second and third HRS interview (=4,583).
From 1994 to 1996, 72.7 percent of women received a mammogram. Being insured increased mammography in both unadjusted and adjusted analyses. A simulation of universal insurance coverage in this age group increased mammography rates only to 75–79 percent from the observed 72.7 percent. When we accounted for potential endogeneity of physician visits and BSE to mammography, physician visits remained a strong predictor of mammography but BSE did not.
Even in the presence of universal coverage and very optimistic scenarios regarding the effect of insurance on mammography for newly insured women, mammography rates would only increase a small amount and gaps in screening would remain. Thus, a Medicare buy‐in could be expected to have a small impact on mammography screening rates.