Black Medicare patients are 33 percent more likely to be readmitted to hospitals within 30 days than white patients, and black Medicare Advantage patients are 64 percent more likely to be readmitted than their white counterparts. A recent study released in June 2017 and published by Health Affairs, notes that not only is there a racial disparity in 30-day readmissions to hospitals between white and black patients, but black Medicare Advantage patients are almost twice as likely to be readmitted for hospital care than the traditional Medicare scheme.
The study focused on patients over the age of 65 who had one of six major surgeries in New York State in 2013. The study found that with Medicare Advantage, there was a greater disparity between the outcomes of black and white patients. Medicare Advantage is not controlled by the government but is managed by private insurers. These private insurers then bet that they will be able to treat patients at a lower cost than what the government does. Recent studies have also pointed to the possibility that minority patients are shortchanged when it comes to receiving good quality healthcare, as found in one such study published earlier this month in Health Affairs entitled “For Selected Services, Blacks And Hispanics More Likely To Receive Low-Value Care Than Whites.”
In essence, the reasons that Black Medicare patients do not receive the same quality of healthcare are threefold.
- Black patients on Medicare do not receive satisfactory treatment from the very initial point of entry. It was found that minorities receive less effective treatment and receive treatment that is inadequate for their needs. The effective treatment could be initially rolled out to black Medicare patients, but they are more often reserved for white patients are cancer screenings and diabetes monitoring. These services are proven to help people live longer lives. Unnecessary services waste tax dollars and may even cause potential harm.
“Common examples include inappropriate imaging for low-back pain, cervical cancer screening in women older than age sixty-five, and the use of antibiotics.”
- Black Medicare patients are more likely to use low-quality hospitals. Additionally, they do not have adequate transportation or ambulance services after they have been discharged from the hospital. Once at home, these black Medicare patients have less community support and are not as well informed about their health and health choices as their white counterparts.
- A possible reason why Medicare Advantage has a much higher readmission rate of black patients within the first 30 days after discharge is that hospitals manage their services for a maximum turnover. Therefore Medicare Advantage encourages cheaper, faster, and not as thorough services from doctors. In turn, this results in more patients having to be readmitted.
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