Healthcare Disparities for American Indian Veterans in the United States: A Population-Based Study

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Objective:To examine healthcare coverage and access disparities for American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) veterans compared with non-Hispanic white veterans.Methods:We examined national survey data for honorably discharged veterans in the United States using National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data between 1997 and 2006. NHIS data were obtained from the Integrated Health Interview Series, a web-based data resource containing harmonized NHIS data from 1969 to the present. Our sample included AIAN and white veterans aged 18 to 64 years (n = 34,504). We used multivariate logistic regression models to estimate the odds of being uninsured, reasons for delayed care, and types of foregone care.Results:In multivariate analysis, AIAN veterans have 1.9 times higher odds of being uninsured compared with non-Hispanic white veterans (95% CI: 1.6–2.7). Compared with white veterans, AIAN veterans are significantly more likely to delay care due to not getting timely appointments (OR = 2.0, 95% CI: 1.1–2.6), not getting through on the phone (OR = 3.0, 95% CI: 1.6–5.8), and transportation problems (OR = 2.9, 95% CI: 1.1–7.3). In unadjusted models, AIAN veterans have significantly higher odds of having foregone 4 of 5 types of care compared with non-Hispanic white veterans. Adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and insurance eliminated all significant relations.Conclusions:AIAN veterans have considerable disparities in healthcare coverage and access compared with non-Hispanic whites. Although barriers to care due to cost are nominal for AIAN veterans, barriers to care due to navigating the healthcare system and due to lack of transportation remain substantial.

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