Healthcare News & Insights

Why are uninsured twice as likely to die in ER?

Health care providers may appear to be giving the same standard of care to insured and uninsured patients. But new research shows patient outcomes are quite different.

Uninsured patients in the emergency department for traumatic injury are twice as likely to die as insured patients. Even when adjusted for race, age, gender and seriousness of the injury, the uninsured were still 80% more likely to die in the hospital.

Those are the findings of a new study, “The Accidental Cost of Being Uninsured,” by Harvard University researchers, and published in the Archives of Surgery.

It’s unclear what’s behind the poor outcomes for uninsured patients. Theories are that they may fare worse because they receive poorer quality care or can’t communicate as well with doctors. They may also have delayed treatment from being transferred to other hospitals and/or be more likely to be treated at under-resourced hospitals.

The study included nearly 700,000 patients seen in emergency departments between 2002 and 2006. It didn’t include burn victims, those declared dead on arrival or patients who were treated and released.

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