Another day, another example that health-care disparities are a serious reality for the African-American community.
The worst hospitals in the country are mostly occupied people of color, elderly and lower-income Americans, according to research findings reported in Health Day News, an Internet newsletter. The study, which looked at more than 3,200 hospitals around the country, reveals:
• While elderly Black Americans account for seven percent of the patients in the country's 122 "best" hospitals, they make up 15 percent of patients among the nation's 178 "worst" health care facilities.
• Elderly Hispanics and Medicaid patients also appear to be over-represented in financially strapped hospitals that were found to have relatively poor health outcomes and higher fatality risks.
• Heart-attack patients were found to face a seven percent to 10 percent higher risk for dying at the worst hospitals, compared to similar patients at the best.
• Hispanics accounted for just one percent of the patient pool in the best hospitals, but they made up four percent in the worst.
• Medicaid patients accounted for just 15 percent of all patients in the best facilities; they constituted 23 percent among the worst.
The difference between the "good" and the "worst" hospitals were based on the quality of care and cost. And the researchers are clear: These differences between hospitals could be the difference between life and death.
So what are their recommendations?
For starters the researchers warn that the situation will get worse under the new U.S. health care law, which will empower Medicare and Medicaid to cut payments to hospitals that don't meet designated quality standards. Yet more cuts to Medicare, which funds a large portion of hospital care, would make quality care even more difficult to deliver.
Lead researcher Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the press, "Anytime you have this kind of change there are going to be winners and losers.” He added, "The hospitals that are most at risk for coming out on the losing end — the ones that are already faring poorly — are also those who care for the most vulnerable populations."
(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)