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Type 2 diabetes mellitus is known to affect adults in racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately. When diabetes mellitus–related symptoms lead to the need for skilled care in the community-dwelling Medicare population, physicians can order the Medicare home health care (HHC) benefit, and Medicare-certified home health agencies can deliver it. Little is known about the extent to which racial and ethnic disparities exist in types and patterns of HHC services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes mellitus when they are approved for the Medicare HHC benefit. This was examined by comparing racial and ethnic groups in terms of measures of HHC service use in a nationally representative sample of Medicare HHC beneficiaries with a primary diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Uniform clinical data from the Outcome and Assessment Information Set were linked with Medicare HHC claims for beneficiaries who received a complete episode of HHC in 2002. In the study sample (n = 9,838), 62% of participants self-identified as white, 22% African American, 12% Hispanic, and 3% Asian. Nearly all (99%) participants in all racial and ethnic groups received skilled nursing services. Controlling for numerous sociodemographic and health-related covariates and geographic region of the country, African-American participants received fewer nurse visits per week and fewer visits per week from all clinical disciplines combined than whites (both P<.001), and Hispanic participants were less likely than whites to receive physical therapy (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.640, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.543–0.754, P<.001) or home health aide (AOR = 0.716, 95% CI = 0.582–0.880, P<.002) services. Lower use of skilled nursing and rehabilitation services by African Americans and of rehabilitation services by Hispanics warrant further clinical and research attention.


J Am Geriatr Soc. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 July 10. Published in final edited form as: J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 June; 59(6): 1123–1129. Published online 2011 June 7. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03424.x PMCID: PMC3132562 NIHMSID: NIHMS303281