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Ann Fam Med. 2011 Nov-Dec;9(6):489-95. doi: 10.1370/afm.1315.

Impact of insurance and hospital ownership on hospital length of stay among patients with ambulatory care-sensitive conditions.

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Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, 29425, USA.


PURPOSE Some studies suggest proprietary (for-profit) hospitals are maximizing financial margins from patient care by limiting therapies or decreasing length of stay for uninsured patients. This study examines the role of insurance related to length of stay once the patient is in the hospital and risk for mortality, particularly in a for-profit environment. METHODS We undertook an analysis of hospitalizations in the National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS) of the 5-year period of 2003 to 2007 for patients aged 18 to 64 years (unweighted n = 849,866; weighted n = 90 million). The analysis included those who were hospitalized with both ambulatory care-sensitive conditions (ACSCs), hospitalizations considered to be preventable, and non-ACSCs. We analyzed the transformed mean length of stay between individuals who had Medicaid or all other insurance types while hospitalized and those who were hospitalized without insurance. This analysis was stratified by hospital ownership. We also examined the relationship between in-hospital mortality and insurance status. RESULTS After controlling for comorbidities; age, sex, and race/ethnicity; and hospitalizations with either an ACSC or non-ACSC diagnosis, patients without insurance tended to have a significantly shorter length of stay. Across all hospital types, the mean length of stay for ACSCs was significantly shorter for individuals without insurance (2.77 days) than for those with either private insurance (2.89 days, P = .04) or Medicaid (3.19, P <.01). Among hospitalizations for ACSCs, in-hospital mortality rate for individuals with either private insurance or Medicaid was not significantly different from the mortality rate for those without insurance. CONCLUSIONS Patients without insurance have shorter lengths of stay for both ACSCs and non-ACSCs. Future research should examine whether patients without insurance are being discharged prematurely.

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