Study: Racial disparities persist in hospital readmissions

A new study by the University of Rochester has found racial disparities still exist in readmission rates to hospitals. File photo by zimmytws/Shutterstock

June 26 (UPI) — A new study by the University of Rochester shows black patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital after surgery.

Medicare Advantage is a Medicare program that was designed to more effectively manage care and control costs. In 2015, roughly 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans.

“This study shows that managed care mechanisms may collectively help reduce post-surgical readmissions for white Medicare Advantage patients, but work in the opposite way for black patients,” Yue Li, an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Public Health Sciences, said in a press release.

For the study, published in the June edition of Health Affairs, researchers analyzed 30-day hospital readmission rates for individuals over the age of 65 after six major surgeries — isolated coronary artery bypass graft, pulmonary lobectomy, endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm, open repair and abdominal aortic aneurysm, colectomy, and hip replacement.

The study revealed that black patients on traditional Medicare were 33 percent more likely to be readmitted to the hospital after surgery compared to whites, and that black patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans were 64 percent more likely to be readmitted.

“Our findings suggest that the risk-reduction strategies adopted by Medicare Advantage plans have not succeeded in lowering the markedly higher rates of readmission for black patients compared to white patients,” Li said.

“More research will be needed to understand which managed care approaches may be effective in reducing 30-day readmissions for white and black beneficiaries, and why existing Medicare Advantage plans do not seem to be successful in reducing racial disparities.”

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