Lack of insurance negatively affects trauma mortality in US children

  • Heather Rosen
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author. Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery, Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Tel.: +1 857 218 4673; fax: +1 617 730 0842.
    Affiliations
    Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery, Boston, MA, USA

    Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

    Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center, Department of Surgery, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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  • Fady Saleh
    Affiliations
    Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery, Boston, MA, USA

    Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

    McMaster University, Department of Surgery, Division of General Surgery, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Stuart R. Lipsitz
    Affiliations
    Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
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  • John G. Meara
    Affiliations
    Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Selwyn O. Rogers Jr.
    Affiliations
    Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

    Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Department of Surgery, Division of Burn, Trauma, and Critical Care, Boston, MA, USA
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      Abstract

      Purpose

      Uninsured children face health-related disparities in screening, treatment, and outcomes. To ensure payer status would not influence the decision to provide emergency care, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) was passed in 1986, which states patients cannot be refused treatment or transferred from one hospital to another when medically unstable. Given findings indicating the widespread nature of disparities based on insurance, we hypothesized that a disparity in patient outcome (death) after trauma among the uninsured may exist, despite the EMTALA.

      Methods

      Data on patients age 17 years or younger (n = 174,921) were collected from the National Trauma Data Bank (2002-2006), containing data from more than 900 trauma centers in the United States. We controlled for race, injury severity score, sex, and injury type to detect differences in mortality among the uninsured and insured. Logistic regression with adjustment for clustering on hospital was used.

      Results

      Crude analysis revealed higher mortality for uninsured children and adolescents compared with the commercially or publicly insured (odds ratio [OR] 2.97; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.64-3.34; P < .001). Controlling for sex, race, age, injury severity, and injury type, and clustering within hospital facility, uninsured children had the highest mortality compared with the commercially insured (OR, 3.32; 95% CI, 2.95-3.74; P < .001], whereas children and adolescents with Medicaid also had higher mortality (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.07-1.33; P = .001).

      Conclusions

      These results demonstrate that uninsured and publicly insured American children and adolescents have higher mortality after sustaining trauma while accounting for a priori confounders. Possible mechanisms for this disparity include treatment delay, receipt of fewer diagnostic tests, and decreased health literacy, among others.

      Key words

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