Knee pain in older woman at home

A large subset of senior Medicare beneficiaries are living with debilitating chronic pain, and many either have trouble accessing care, or have decided to delay care, according to survey results released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Chronic pain is a common condition that affects about 30% (13.6 million) of Americans aged 65 and over, according to CMS. In the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, investigators detailed the prevalence of high-impact chronic pain and access to related care among community dwelling beneficiaries aged 65 and older. Residents of long-term care facilities were not included. 

Pain rates and risk factors

More than 1 out of 10 beneficiaries reported that they were living with high-impact chronic pain, investigators found. Factors that raised the likelihood of having this level of chronic pain include having four or more chronic conditions, a household income less than $25,000 and dual eligibility for Medicaid, they reported.

In addition, 12% of beneficiaries living with high-impact chronic pain said they have trouble getting needed healthcare — twice as many as those living without high-impact chronic pain. This problem was more pronounced among people aged 84 years and younger. Those older than age 85 were less likely to report poor care access.

Costs and delayed care

Healthcare costs also appear to play a role in care access as well. Fully 13% of respondents with high-impact chronic pain said they delay seeking medical care because of costs. Those living in non-metropolitan areas were more likely to delay seeking medical care than those in metropolitan areas.

More information can be found in a data brief, released on the CMS website.

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