University Study Finds Persisting Racial Gap in Hospital Readmissions After Surgery

A new study led by Yue Li, an associate professor in the department of public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, finds a persisting racial gap in hospital readmissions after surgery for Medicare patients. The study also found that Black patients who are enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans, which are designed to manage care and control costs, are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital after surgery than Black patients enrolled in the standard Medicare program. About 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.

The authors of the study examined 30-day hospital readmission for individuals over the age of 65 for 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.

They found that Black patients on traditional Medicare where 33 percent more likely to be readmitted after a surgery than Whites. More strikingly, Black patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans were 64 percent more likely to be readmitted than Whites.

Dr. Li notes that “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.”

The authors speculate that several factors may be behind this disparity, such as lower quality surgical care, poorer support and follow-up care when a patient leaves the hospital, and less social and community support.

The full study, “Medicare Advantage Associated With More Racial Disparity Than Traditional Medicare For Hospital Readmissions,” was published in the journal Health Affairs. It may be accessed here.

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