Uninsured, medicaid patients more likely to die from heart attack

A new study finds that patients with public health insurance are more likely to die from a heart attack than patients with private insurance, pointing to a seeming inequity in the delivery of costly life-saving procedures.

Vice President Dick Cheney's recent hospitalizations underscored the potentially life-saving benefits of advanced medical care following a heart attack .

However, the results of this new study suggest that these life-saving benefits -- which in the case of the vice president's recent surgery cost more than $30,000 -- may not be as readily available to heart patients who don't have the insurance to pay for them.

Death rates after a heart attack vary according to insurance coverage and were lowest for patients with private insurance, says study author Jay J. Shen, Ph.D., of Governors State University in University Park, Illinois

"In general, Medicaid and uninsured [heart attack] patients were about 20 percent and 30 percent more likely to die in the hospital than were Medicare [heart attack] patients, respectively," he says.

Patients with private insurance, however, were 20 percent less likely to die when compared to Medicare patients.

The study is published in the August issue of Health Services Research.

The investigators reviewed records from 95,971 heart attack discharges from hospitals in 11 states with primary diagnosis of either heart attack or presumed heart attack complication. In addition to insurance coverage, the researchers examined the relationship between race and income on death rates from heart attack.

Mortality did not differ between races and reduced income was only modestly associated with increased risk of dying following a heart attack.

However, patients in the "extremely unfavorable group" (those who lived in a

Contact: Carolyn Dennis
Center for the Advancement of Health

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