Although the protective effect of health insurance on population health is well established, this effect may vary based on race/ethnicity. This study had two aims: (1) to test whether having health insurance at baseline protects individuals over a 10-year period against incident chronic medical conditions (CMC) and (2) to explore the race/ethnic variation in this effect. Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) is a national longitudinal study among 25–75 year-old American adults. The current study included 3572 Whites and 133 Blacks who were followed for 10 years from 1995 to 2004. Race, demographic characteristics (age and gender), socioeconomic status (educational attainment and personal income), and health insurance status were measured at baseline. Number of CMC was measured in 1995 and 2005. Linear regression models were used for data analysis. In the overall sample, having health insurance at baseline was inversely associated with an increase in CMC over the follow up period, net of covariates. Blacks and Whites differed in the magnitude of the effect of health insurance on CMC incidence, with a stronger protective effect for Blacks than Whites. In the U.S., health insurance protects individuals against incident CMC; however, the health return of health insurance may depend on race/ethnicity. This finding suggests that health insurance may better protect Blacks than Whites against developing more chronic diseases. Increasing Blacks’ access to health insurance may be a solution to eliminate health disparities, given they are at a relative advantage for gaining health from insurance. These findings are discussed in the context of Blacks’ diminished returns of socioeconomic resources. Future attempts should test replicability of these findings.
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