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Elderly Medicare Beneficiaries With Disabilities
Several ways of defining and measuring disability exist. Two of the more common approaches are to identify functional activity limitations or to identify those meeting the eligibility criteria for a program that addresses disability, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). A particular challenge in reporting on racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic differences related to disability is that many data collections do not capture disability and, when collected, do not have adequate sample sizes to examine racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic differences. This section uses data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to examine disparities in quality and access faced by Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and over who report problems with activities of daily living (ADLs) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). About 42% of elderly Medicare beneficiaries, or 14 million people, have one or more limitations.
Analyses of trends in disability and functioning among older adults indicate improvements in the last decade, with the prevalence of disability declining during the 1990s. However, there are considerable gaps in availability of measures and understanding of trends in differences across major racial and ethnic groups with respect to functional limitations in the elderly population.94