CDC: Poorest Seniors More Likely to Have Multiple Chronic Conditions

The results are important given the concentration of Medicare beneficiaries who are in Medicaid and being treated for multiple chronic conditions.

CDC today released data that show nearly two-thirds of seniors have at least 2 chronic conditions, and the poorest seniors are more likely to have 4 or more conditions.

The QuickStats update, drawn from the National Health Interview Survey 2013-2015, found that among all Americans 65 years of age or older, 13% report having none of 10 chronic conditions that CDC tracks, while 25% had 1 condition. Most seniors (46%) have either 2 or 3 conditions, and 16% had 4 or more conditions.

Respondents were asked about the following conditions: hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, hepatitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, current asthma, and weak or failing kidneys within the past 12 months.

While there were no differences by poverty status for those having 2 or 3 conditions, those in the lowest-income group (below 100% of the federal poverty level, or FPL) were less likely to have none or only 1 of the conditions, compared with the highest-income group (at least 400% of FPL). The lowest-income group was also more likely to have 4 or more conditions, when compared with the highest-income group.

The data are important given the role that Medicaid plays in paying for care for low-income people already in Medicare. Medicaid pays for things like long-term nursing home care for those at the lowest income levels. The program also covers some premiums and cost-sharing for those who would be unable to pay.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 3 in 4 Medicare beneficiaries who receive Medicaid have at least 3 chronic conditions, and 60% of those on both programs, known as dual eligibles, need help with daily living activities that include eating, bathing, or dressing. Of this group 60% have a cognitive impairment. This group accounts for 14% of Medicare enrollment but 36% of the program’s spending.


Kramarow EA. QuickStats: Age-adjusted percentage of adults aged ≥65 Years, by number of 10 selected diagnosed chronic conditions and poverty status — National Health Interview Survey, 2013—2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:197. DOI:

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