June 10th, 2010
12:05 AM ET
By Sabriya Rice
When uninsured patients are treated in the hospital for heart attack, stroke and pneumonia, they are more likely to die from the conditions during their hospital stay, a new study finds.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts investigated the impact of insurance coverage on hospital care, by analyzing the discharge data of more than 150 thousand adults between ages 18 and 64. The study, published today in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, found that compared with hospitalized patients who have insurance, uninsured patients were 52 percent more likely to die in the hospital after a heart attack and 49 percent more likely to die in the hospital after a stroke. Patients on Medicaid were 21 percent more likely to die in the hospital while receiving treatment for pneumonia.
The study authors say these findings are “concerning,” especially considering vast improvements over the past few decades in treating these common conditions.
So what are the reasons for the disparities? Though this study could not address that particular question, in the study's conclusion Dr. Omar Hasan, the lead author, cites three main schools of thought he says could help explain the findings:
1) The uninsured are more likely to delay care
2) Hospitals avoid doing high-cost procedures on the uninsured
3) Possibility of substandard care
As health care reform is implemented in the U.S., Hasan encourages policy makers to take these disparities into consideration as they revamp legislation. "One of the pillars of providing high quality health care is that there's equity across all populations," he says.
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