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Johns Hopkins declares insurance, not race, determines hospital fatalities

Posted On Mon, August 13, 2012

According to a new study released by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, health insurance coverage, rather than race, is the determining factor behind heart attack survival rates after initial hospital admission in Maryland.

As recently as 2009, researchers at the National Institute of Health were unsure why there was such a marked disparity between the survival rates of African-American patients and Caucasian patients following a heart attack.

New research from three Maryland-area hospitals shows, however, that it is a lack of health insurance that determines a patient's survival, rather than race. According to the study, patients who are uninsured or underinsured face a 31% higher risk of death following a heart attack while in the hospital. 

According to the study, the disparity is due to the insufficient treatment that accompanies being uninsured. Low-income patients cannot afford the health insurance rates associated with policies that cover expensive, life-saving medical procedures.

"African Americans living in poor, urban neighborhoods bear a high burden of illnesses and early death, from cardiovascular disease in particular. Our findings suggested that a lack of health insurance, or being underinsured is a major cause of insufficient treatment and subsequent premature death," said Derek Ng, ScM, lead author of the study and graduate student in Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology.

Researchers associated with the study believe that targeting the factors behind unaffordable health insurance and out-of-reach follow-up medical procedures will reduce the mortality rate in hospitals nationwide.

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