Association between the COVID-19 Pandemic and Insurance-Based Disparities in Mortality after Major Surgery among US Adults

Laurent G. Glance, Andrew W. Dick, Ernie Shippey, Patrick J. McCormick, Richard Dutton, Patricia W. Stone, Jingjing Shang, Stewart J. Lustik, Heather L. Lander, Igor Gosev, Karen E. Joynt Maddox

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Abstract

Importance: The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruptions in surgical care. Whether these disruptions disproportionately impacted economically disadvantaged individuals is unknown. Objective: To evaluate the association between the COVID-19 pandemic and mortality after major surgery among patients with Medicaid insurance or without insurance compared with patients with commercial insurance. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study used data from the Vizient Clinical Database for patients who underwent major surgery at hospitals in the US between January 1, 2018, and May 31, 2020. Exposures: The hospital proportion of patients with COVID-19 during the first wave of COVID-19 cases between March 1 and May 31, 2020, stratified as low (≤5.0%), medium (5.1%-10.0%), high (10.1%-25.0%), and very high (>25.0%). Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcome was inpatient mortality. The association between mortality after surgery and payer status as a function of the proportion of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 was evaluated with a quasi-experimental triple-difference approach using logistic regression. Results: Among 2950147 adults undergoing inpatient surgery (1550752 female [52.6%]) at 677 hospitals, the primary payer was Medicare (1427791 [48.4%]), followed by commercial insurance (1000068 [33.9%]), Medicaid (321600 [10.9%]), other payer (140959 [4.8%]), and no insurance (59729 [2.0%]). Mortality rates increased more for patients undergoing surgery during the first wave of the pandemic in hospitals with a high COVID-19 burden (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.13; 95% CI, 1.03-1.24; P =.01) and a very high COVID-19 burden (AOR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.24-1.53; P <.001) compared with patients in hospitals with a low COVID-19 burden. Overall, patients with Medicaid had 29% higher odds of death (AOR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.22-1.36; P <.001) and patients without insurance had 75% higher odds of death (AOR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.55-1.98; P <.001) compared with patients with commercial insurance. However, mortality rates for surgical patients with Medicaid insurance (AOR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.82-1.30; P =.79) or without insurance (AOR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.47-1.54; P =.60) did not increase more than for patients with commercial insurance in hospitals with a high COVID-19 burden compared with hospitals with a low COVID-19 burden. These findings were similar in hospitals with very high COVID-19 burdens. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study, the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a higher risk of mortality after surgery in hospitals with more than 25.0% of patients with COVID-19. However, the pandemic was not associated with greater increases in mortality among patients with no insurance or patients with Medicaid compared with patients with commercial insurance in hospitals with a very high COVID-19 burden..

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2222360
JournalJAMA Network Open
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

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