This post was written by Nancy Sheliga.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report examining the effect of prior health insurance coverage on Medicare beneficiaries. The report specifically focuses on the health status, program spending, and use of services by Medicare beneficiaries with and without continuous health insurance coverage before Medicare enrollment. According to the GAO, Medicare beneficiaries with prior insurance initially used fewer or less costly medical services than those without prior insurance. Because the difference in total spending was the greatest during the first year in Medicare, the GAO hypothesizes that beneficiaries without prior continuous insurance may have had a pent-up demand for medical services in anticipation of coverage at age 65. In addition, the report finds that beneficiaries without prior continuous insurance have higher total and institutional outpatient spending but not higher spending for physician and other noninstitutional services, suggesting that they require more costly and intensive medical services or that they are continuing prior patterns of visiting hospitals more than physician offices. Finally, in line with previous research, the GAO found that beneficiaries with continuous health insurance coverage for approximately six years before enrolling in Medicare were more likely than those without prior continuous insurance to report being in good health during their first six years in Medicare.