Safety-net hospitals remain essential resource for minority patients after health reform

The number of minority patients who received care at safety-net hospitals in Massachusetts increased even after healthcare reform expanded access to non-safety-net hospitals, reserchers from Boston Medical Center found in a new study, published in the journal Medical Care.

From 2006 to 2008, Massachusetts implemented extensive health reform that expanded access to public medical insurance and created exchanges for more affordable private insurance. The reform served as a model for the Affordable Care Act.

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For the study, researchers analyzed and compared patient discharge information collected from minority-serving and safety-net hospitals in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey between 2004 and 2009. Study results indicated a 5.8 percent increase in Massachusetts minority discharges from minority-serving hospitals when compared to New Jersey and a statistically insignificant 2.1 percent tick upward when compared with New York. Across all three states, 62 percent of patients categorized as safety-net hospital users continued to receive care at safety-net facilities post-reformation.

Karen Lasser, MD, primary care internist at BMC and associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said, "While Massachusetts safety-net hospitals (many of which are minority-serving) received large cuts in payments with the idea that other hospitals would assume the care of previously uninsured patients, this study demonstrates the importance of securing the future of safety-net and minority-serving hospitals through policy-based interventions to assure the continued care of vulnerable and underserved patient populations."

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