Study: Injured uninsured more likely to die in ER (HealthLeaders Media)

Posted on December 1, 2009

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Following are excerpts from this story by Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press Medical Writer

Uninsured patients with traumatic injuries such as car crashes, falls and gunshot wounds, were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital as similarly injured patients with health insurance, according to a troubling new study.

The findings by Harvard University researchers surprised doctors and health experts who have believed emergency room care was equitable.

“This is another drop in a sea of evidence that the uninsured fare much worse in their health in the United States,” said senior author Dr. Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon and medical journalist.

The study, appearing in the November issue of Archives of Surgery, comes as Congress is debating the expansion of health insurance coverage to millions more Americans. It could add fodder to that debate.

The researchers couldn’t pin down the reasons behind the differences they found. The uninsured might experience more delays being transferred from hospital to hospital. Or they might get different care.

Or they could have more trouble communicating with doctors.

The hospitals that treat them also could have fewer resources.

“Those hospitals tend to be financially strapped, not have the same level of staffing, not have the same level of surgeons and testing and equipment,” Gawande said. “That also is likely a major contributor.”

Learn more here by reading the rest of this Archives of Surgery story at HealthLeadersMedia.com.

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