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Those without health insurance may get higher-quality trauma care

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Sergei Mordovin
Those without health insurance may get higher-quality trauma care
Those without health insurance may get higher-quality trauma care

In general, people who have health insurance are in a far better position to obtain the best possible care when they need it, but that isn't always the case. New data suggests that, in the event of significant injuries of any kind, it might actually be those without insurance who are able to obtain treatment of the highest quality.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this - as argued by a study published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery - is that people with severe injuries who did not have health insurance were far more likely than those with such coverage to be transferred to hospitals with trauma care units and therefore receive more specialized treatment, according to a report from USA Today. These significant injuries are often related to auto accidents, severe falls, and gunshot incidents.

However, some experts are already expressing various misgivings about the data, because they don't believe that hospitals admit people based on anything other than solely their conditions, the report said. Only about 25 percent of all hospitals nationwide are actually equipped to handle specific kinds of trauma, but at the same time, only one in three patients who need this kind of medical attention actually receive it from those health care centers.

A deeper look
Interestingly, transfers to hospitals with trauma centers happen in about 45 percent of cases, and those who were moved were 14 percent less likely to have Medicaid, and 11 percent less likely to have their own health coverage through a private insurer, the report said.

While this may not indicate that hospitals are evaluating patients' medical coverage before admitting them, it might suggest that doctors are generally discouraged by executives from helping uninsured patients because of the likelihood that they're not going to be able to pay their bills. While this practice is technically illegal in most parts of the country, anecdotal evidence exists which suggests it happens at least some of the time. However, it is also possible that those who have insurance refuse to transfer to other hospitals for various reasons (in-network vs. out-of-network cost sharing, familiarity with the hospital, etc.). Either way, such issues may become less prevalent as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gets more people covered nationwide overall.

Health insurers may need to keep a close watch on the ways in which these issues affect their bottom lines going forward, as they could end up having a major impact on how business is done in the future.

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