Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Longer-term Outcomes Among Emergency General Surgery Patients: The Unique Experience of Universally Insured Older Adults

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Abstract

Objectives:

To determine whether racial/ethnic disparities in 30/90/180-day mortality, major morbidity, and unplanned readmissions exist among universally insured older adult (≥65 years) emergency general surgery patients; vary by diagnostic category; and can be explained by variations in geography, teaching status, age-cohort, and a hospital's percentage of minority patients.

Summary of Background Data:

As the US population ages and discussions surrounding the optimal method of insurance provision increasingly enter into national debate, longer-term outcomes are of paramount concern. It remains unclear the extent to which insurance changes disparities throughout patients’ postacute recovery period among older adults.

Methods:

Survival analysis of 2008 to 2014 Medicare data using risk-adjusted Cox proportional-hazards models.

Results:

A total of 6,779,649 older adults were included, of whom 82.8% identified as non-Hispanic white (NHW), 9.2% non-Hispanic black (NHB), 5.6% Hispanic, and 1.5% non-Hispanic Asian (NHA). Relative to NHW patients, each group of minority patients was significantly less likely to die [30-day NHB vs NHW hazard ratio (95% confidence interval): 0.88 (0.86–0.89)]. Differences became less apparent as outcomes approached 180 days [180-day NHB vs NHW: 1.00 (0.98–1.02)]. For major morbidity and unplanned readmission, differences among NHW, Hispanic, and NHA patients were comparable. NHB patients did consistently worse. Efforts to explain the occurrence found similar trends across diagnostic categories, but significant differences in disparities attributable to geography and the other included factors that combined accounted for up to 50% of readmission differences between racial/ethnic groups.

Conclusion:

The study found an inversion of racial/ethnic mortality differences and mitigation of non-NHB morbidity/readmission differences among universally insured older adults that decreased with time. Persistent disparities among nonagenarian patients and hospitals managing a regionally large share of minority patients warrant particular concern.

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