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Uninsured Americans with asthma are less likely to take daily preventive medicine

Research Activities, April 2009

About 6.7 million Americans with current asthma take daily medicine to prevent asthma attacks, but uninsured people under age 65 are only about half as likely to take the drugs as are insured sufferers, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways (tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs). It causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. In 2006, about 21 million Americans had "current asthma," meaning they experienced an asthma attack within the last 12 months or reported they still had the disease.

AHRQ also found that in 2006:

  • About 30 percent of insured persons under age 65 with current asthma, but only 18 percent of those the same age without insurance, were taking asthma daily preventive medicine.
  • Among people 65 and older with current asthma, about 48 percent were taking asthma daily preventive medicine. That was higher than all other age groups.
  • While about 35 percent of whites with current asthma were taking asthma daily preventive medicine, the percentage was lower for both blacks (25 percent) and Hispanics (23 percent.)
  • The likelihood of taking daily preventive medicine for asthma did not vary by family income.

AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works to enhance the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care in the United States. These data are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Asthma Preventive Medicine in 2006—Who Takes Them?, Statistical Brief No. 237.

Current as of April 2009
Internet Citation: Uninsured Americans with asthma are less likely to take daily preventive medicine: Research Activities, April 2009. April 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/apr09/0409RA38.html