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After Hospitalization, Patients Without Health Insurance Are Less Likely to Recover

People with health insurance were more likely to recover than people with  substandard health insurance or without it altogether.

Health insurance is good to have, if one can afford it, so that a person does  not suddenly need an appendectomy and receives a $100,000 hospital bill with no  clear idea on how to pay it. However, the benefits of health insurance are not  just fiscal – health insurance also has benefits for a person’s health. A recent  study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that people  with health insurance were more likely to recover than people with substandard  health insurance or without it altogether.

Researchers had previously thought that race was a huge indicator of whether  a person would survive after hospitalization. Indeed, African Americans living  in low-income, urban neighborhoods have a high burden of hospitalization and  early death. However, researchers were uncertain as to the link that they were  seeing was correlative with race or with health insurance. Derek Ng, from Johns  Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and his team sought to  find out.

Ng and his colleagues looked at the admission records of three Maryland  hospitals over the years 1997 to 2003. All three hospitals had different  demographics, collected from hospitals’ own analysis. The study divided patients  into three groups: those with private health insurance, those with state health  insurance, and those with no health insurance. Of the data researchers analyzed,  4,908 patients were diagnosed with heart attacks, 6,759 with clogged or hardened  arteries, and 1,293 with stroke. Patients’ income was assessed through Census  records. Patient outcomes were assessed with the Social Security Death Master  File.

In all three diagnoses, when adjusted for race, age, disease severity, and  average neighborhood income, health insurance was the biggest indicator of  whether or not a person would recover after hospital admission. Those without  health insurance or with insufficient health insurance were 31 percent less  likely to survive after a heart attack and 50 percent less likely after a  diagnosis of clogged or hardened arteries. Across racial lines, survival rates  were about equal after suffering from a heart attack or stroke, and black people  were in fact slightly more likely to recover from hardened or clogged  arteries.

President Obama made health care reform a key target of his first term of  office. The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, modeled after former  Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s plan. In June of this year, the Supreme  Court upheld the contentious individual mandate, but did not require that states  joined the Medicaid expansion. Recent estimates by the Congressional Budget  Office say that the Medicaid expansion would be disastrous for states that  choose to join it.


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