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Uninsured Trauma Patients More Likely to Die: Study

Causes for the disparity need to be further explored, researchers say

TUESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Americans without health insurance are more likely to die after admission to the hospital with trauma injuries than those who are insured, new research suggests.

"After admission to a hospital, trauma patients can have worse outcomes based on insurance status," the study authors wrote. "This concerning finding warrants more rigorous investigation to determine why such variation in mortality would exist in a system where equivalent care is not only expected but mandated by law."

Dr. Heather Rosen, from Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues analyzed statistics from the National Trauma Data Bank, which has tracked 2.7 million trauma patients admitted to over 900 U.S. trauma centers. The researchers looked at 687,091 adult patients admitted between 2002 and 2006.

Uninsured patients were more likely to die than insured patients even when researchers tried to adjust the statistics to eliminate the influence of factors such as gender, age and race that might throw off the results.

"Treatment often is initiated before payer status is recognized; thus, this provokes the question of whether differences exist in processes of care during the hospital stay," the study authors wrote. "We can only speculate as to the mechanism of the disparities we have exposed; the true causes are still unclear. Although the lack of insurance may not be the only explanation for the disparity in trauma mortality, the accidental costs of being uninsured in the United States today may be too high to continue to overlook."

The study findings are published in the November issue of Archives of Surgery.

More information

The Kaiser Family Foundation has more on health coverage and the uninsured.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Archives of Surgery, news release, Nov. 16, 2009

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