THURSDAY, Oct. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The United States' so-called "worst" hospitals are home to a significantly larger pool of elderly, poor and minority patients than are the nation's better quality/lower cost institutions, new research says.
While elderly black Americans constitute nearly 7 percent of the patients in the country's 122 "best" hospitals, they make up 15 percent of patients among the nation's 178 "worst" health care facilities, the investigators found.
Elderly Hispanics and Medicaid patients also appear to be over-represented in financially strapped hospitals that were found to have relatively poor health outcomes and higher fatality risks.
The study team also warns that the situation among the country's most beleaguered facilities is poised to get worse, given the reward system outlined in the new U.S. health care law, which will empower Medicare and Medicaid to cut payments to hospitals that don't meet designated quality standards.
"What we're taking about is a new regime in which we're going to see big cuts in payments from Medicare, which is the biggest payer of hospital care in this country," said study lead author Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health.
"And anytime you have this kind of change there are going to be winners and losers," Jha added. "The hospitals that are most at risk for coming out on the losing end -- the ones that are already faring poorly -- are also those who care for the most vulnerable populations."
Jha and his colleagues present their findings in the October issue of Health Affairs.
For the study, the authors looked at patient populations and care quality at about 3,200 hospitals across the United States.
The hospitals that ranked in the top quarter in terms of providing the highest quality of care and the
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