Lack of insurance ups risk of emergency surgery

People without insurance are more likely to need emergency surgery on their aorta and are more likely to die or have complications after the surgery, concludes a study from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

"It would appear that if you don't have insurance--and assuming you're not getting preventive healthcare ... then you are probably at a higher risk of having an aortic catastrophe and, if you have one, you're more likely to die or have a complication," G. Chad Hughes, the study's senior author from Duke University Medical Center, told Reuters.

While less than 5 percent of patients die during a scheduled surgery involving an aorta repair, the death rate jumps to about 50 percent for those patients undergoing an emergency surgery, which usually involves a ruptured or broken aorta.

The study, which analyzed aorta surgeries and their outcomes for more than 51,000 people with private, public or no insurance, indicates people with insurance receive better healthcare and would, therefore, schedule a surgery to repair their aorta instead of waiting until it ruptures.

The exception was Medicaid--people insured through the state-federal public insurance program were still more likely to need urgent or emergency surgery than those with private insurance. Medicaid members also more frequently suffered surgery complications, including developing an infection, having a stroke or needing another operation.

The study didn't examine what happens when uninsured consumers obtain health coverage. Since the Affordable Care Act is increasing the number of insured people, it could impact this and similar studies.

"I figured we'd see exactly what we saw," Hughes said. "I think the question is, if you get these people coverage, will that make a difference? The answer right now is, we don't know."

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the Reuters article