Abstract

Background. Medicare implemented reimbursement for screening mammography in 1991. Main Findings. Post-implementation, breast cancer mortality declined faster (p<.0001) among White than among Black elderly women (65+ years). No excess breast cancer deaths occurred among Black elderly compared with White elderly through 1990; over 2,459 have occurred since. Contextual socioeconomic status does not explain differences between counties with lowest Black breast cancer mortality/post-implementation declines in disparity and counties with highest Black breast cancer mortality/widened disparity post-implementation. Conclusions. The results lead to these hypotheses: (a) Medicare mammography reimbursement was causally associated with declines in elderly mortality and widened elderly Black:White disparity from breast cancer; (b) the latter reflects inherent Black-White differences in risk of breast cancer death; place-specific, unaddressed inequalities in capacity to use Medicare benefits; and/or other factors; (c) previous observations linking poverty with disparities in breast cancer mortality are partly confounded by factors explained by theories of human capability and diffusion of innovation.

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