Latino senior citizens are 35 percent less likely to have prescription drug coverage than white citizens, according to a study released in the Health Affairs journal by University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The May report makes its conclusion despite the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan and the availability of insurance premium payment assistance. It is estimated that 65 percent of Latinos without prescription coverage are eligible to receive support in paying their premiums.

"These results indicate that disparities in prescription drug coverage exist between Hispanic and white Medicare beneficiaries, despite the existence of a potentially universal entitlement program," Brian McGarry, a graduate student in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and co-author of the study, said via University of Rochester's Newsroom page.

The study suggests that the complicated process and the financial know-how needed to apply for premium assistance could be the reason for this statistic, although it does note that there is ample information available in Spanish. Another possibility is a lack of outreach in educating the Latino community.

"This study suggests that, in spite of the overall success of the Part D program, future policies need to focus on the disproportionately low enrollment of vulnerable populations," McGarry said.

The same sort of issues have been brought up regarding Latinos and the Affordable Care Act.

"With all that is known about the adverse health and economic effects associated with a lack of prescription drug coverage, the authors point out that -- with a rapidly growing population of Hispanic seniors -- addressing this disparity is a critical public health priority."

The study was co-authored by McGarry, Robert Strawderman, Sc.D., the chair of the University of Rochester Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, and Yue Li, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department Public Health Sciences and considered data from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institute for Aging and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities funded the study.

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