Patients on Medicaid Twice As Likely to Die After Surgery: Study

According to the findings of new research, patients receiving medical treatment under Medicaid appear to be more likely to die or suffer other complications following surgery, when compared to patients with private insurance coverage.  

In a study published by the medical journal JAMA Surgery on May 12, researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School found Medicaid patients generally came into operations with worse health than other patients and fared worse following surgery.

Researchers reviewed data involving patients from 52 Michigan hospitals that took part in the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative Data system, a statewide clinical registry, which revealed 14,000 patients newly eligible for Medicaid enrollment in the state.

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The study focused on patients ages 18 to 64 from July 2012 to June 2013. Researchers found Medicaid patients required longer hospital stays and ended back in the hospital more often than patients covered by private insurance.

Researchers also found Medicare patients required more emergency operations and experienced two-thirds more complications following surgery.

Those patients also used 50% more hospital resources than patients with other types of insurance, and on average needed one more night in the hospital than other patients.

The study focused only on Medicare patients and private insurance. Patients without insurance were not included.

On average Medicaid patients were younger, but were also twice as likely as other patients to have other health risk factors before surgery. These patients were more likely to smoke, had higher rates of conditions that can arise from years of poor health habits, including diabetes, lung disease, and blood vessels blockages.

Newly Insured Bringing Long Untreated Health Problems

Researchers speculate that the many untreated conditions contribute to higher negative outcomes for Medicare patients, as opposed to patients with private insurance who seek medical attention when needed.

The influx of new Medicaid patients is a result of the expanded Medicare coverage implemented under the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. The ACA offered coverage to adults with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level, providing more than 400,000 patients with insurance in Michigan alone.

The surge of new patients has placed heightened strain on hospitals attempting to treat patients who are seeking medical care for conditions that went untreated while previously uninsured, including surgery.

More than 61% of all the Medicare operations in Michigan surveyed during the study were conducted at 20 of the 52 hospitals which took part in the clinical registry.

Under the ACA the federal government offers additional payments to cover the costs of care, but those payments are scheduled to decline over time. Many critics believe this may have an impact on a hospitals profitability in the future as more Medicare patients continue to be treated.


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