A study published in Health Affairs in June 2017 compared racial disparities in 30-day readmissions among traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who underwent one of six major inpatient surgical procedures. The study utilized New York State hospital claims data in 2013. After controlling for patient, hospital and geographic characteristics, the study found that in traditional Medicare, black patients were 33 percent more likely than white patients to be readmitted, whereas in Medicare Advantage, black patients were 64 percent more likely than white patients to be readmitted.
As we strive to reduce hospital readmissions, we must address health disparities. There is not a one-size-fits-all strategy in reducing readmissions, and addressing health disparities is essential. Interventions to prevent readmissions need to be targeted to fit the needs of the patient. (Sue Bergmann)