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Black Medicaid enrollees face higher rates of preventable hospitalizations than White enrollees


Better primary care could help reduce the disparities

Medicaid enrollees face racial disparities: ©Nelza Jamal -

Medicaid enrollees face racial disparities: ©Nelza Jamal -

An analysis conducted by the Urban Institute and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found racial disparities regarding preventable hospitalizations among Medicaid enrollees. The study, spanning 21 states, reveals that Black Medicaid enrollees, as well as nonelderly adults enrolled through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, face significantly higher rates of preventable hospitalizations compared to their White counterparts.

The report defines preventable hospitalizations as inpatient stays for conditions that could be avoided through timely and high-quality primary care. Asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and heart failure emerged as the top three reasons for preventable hospitalizations. Regardless of SSI status, Black Medicaid enrollees are more likely to experience preventable hospitalizations for heart disease compared to White enrollees.

Preventable hospitalization rates were found to be notably higher for adults eligible for Medicaid through SSI, underscoring the urgency of addressing healthcare disparities among disabled populations, researchers say.

Katherine Hempstead, senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said it is important to minimize preventable hospitalizations, not only for improving population health but also for reducing overall health care costs. She expressed concern regarding the high rates and substantial racial and disability-related differences observed in preventable hospitalizations for heart failure, signaling a potential lack of access to high-quality primary care for Black and disabled enrollees.

Claire O’Brien, research analyst at the Urban Institute, highlighted the need for improved access to outpatient care, especially for managing chronic conditions. O’Brien stressed that enhancing access to care within Medicaid would not only enhance the lives of enrollees but also contribute to cost reduction at both state and federal levels, ultimately fostering health equity within the Medicaid system.

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