Income inequality drives 40,000 excess hospital admissions

On top of reduced life expectancy and poorer self-reported health, income inequality also is associated with a greater risk of hospital readmission, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal.

Thanks to income inequality, hospitals saw roughly 40,000 excess admissions from 2006 to 2008, according to the research announcement.

For patients with acute myocardial infarction or heart failure, income inequality increased their readmission risk by 1.5 percent, while risk of readmission increased 1.4 percent for pneumonia patients.

However, researchers found no relationship between income inequality and an increased risk of death within 30 days for all three conditions, the study noted.

Much research has correlated socioeconomic factors, such as patients' income level, employment status and education, to rehospitalization.

Large, academic and safety-net hospitals will receive the most readmission penalties, given those facilities treat large numbers low-income patients. In fact, hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of indigent patients are 30 percent more likely to have higher-than-average readmission rates than other facilities, according to a Commonwealth Fund study last month.

The BMJ research comes a day after a Journal of the American Medical Association study found hospital readmissions are not linked to mortality rates.

For more:
- here's the BMJ study
- read the research announcement