OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the extent and types of health insurance coverage in a representative sample of adults with diabetes in the U.S. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey included national samples of non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican-Americans aged > or = 20 years. Information on medical history and treatment of diabetes was obtained to determine subjects who had been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician before the survey (n = 1,503) and subjects without diagnosed diabetes (n = 17,319). Information on health insurance coverage was obtained via a structured questionnaire for 96% of participants. RESULTS: A total of 93% of all adults with diabetes had some form of health insurance. Of these subjects, 73% had private insurance, 48% had Medicare coverage, 15% had Medicaid coverage, and 5% had Champus/Veterans Affairs coverage. Approximately 52% of adults with diabetes had multiple types of health insurance, and 54% had health care coverage through one or more government-sponsored programs. A greater proportion of non-Hispanic whites (91%) and non-Hispanic blacks (89%) than Mexican-Americans (66%) had health insurance among subjects aged 20-64 years. For those aged > or = 65 years, coverage was virtually 100% for all racial and ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic whites had the highest rate of coverage through private insurance (81%), with non-Hispanic blacks having an intermediate rate (56%) and Mexican-Americans having the lowest rate (45%). Rates of coverage were similar for adults with and without diabetes in each racial and ethnic group for any type of insurance and for private insurance. CONCLUSIONS: There are marked racial and ethnic differences in health insurance coverage for adults with diabetes, although these differences are similar to those for adults without diabetes. Whether these racial and ethnic disparities influence access to care, quality of care, or health outcomes for people with diabetes remains to be determined.

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