Financial Concerns Can Delay Heart Attack Treatment

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that financial concerns can lead people having heart attacks to delay treatment.

The Los Angeles Times: "When uninsured or financially insecure adults feel stabbing chest pain, burning in the shoulders and jaw, or extreme pressure across the midsection, they are more likely than the reliably insured to consider the economic consequences of a false alarm and put off getting help. … The new study included only subjects who survived, but its authors speculated that delayed care contributed to the death of many others, helping drive the estimated 45,000 annual U.S. fatalities attributed to a lack of health insurance."

"Among uninsured patients, almost half -- 48.6% -- waited at least six hours to go to a hospital. Only 39.3% of those who had secure health insurance waited as long" (Healy, 4/14).

HealthDay/BusinessWeek: "Even among people with private health insurance, money worries are associated with delays in getting to the hospital for treatment. ... National health-reform legislation will expand access to coverage, experts say, but it's no panacea for Americans' concerns about paying their share of the health-care tab, including deductibles and co-insurance for hospital admissions."

"The paper underscores the 'handicap' that the uninsured and underinsured have, [Clyde W. Yancy, president of the American Heart Association] noted, 'but it also highlights the impediment that even the insured have in accessing health care'" (Pallarito, 4/13). 

McClatchy: "Previous studies have found that uninsured patients are less likely than the insured to get checkups or preventive care. They are more likely to end up in the hospital with avoidable conditions such as pneumonia or uncontrolled diabetes. When they develop cancer, it's more often diagnosed at later stages. But there has been little research on how insurance affects decisions to seek care in life-threatening medical emergencies."

"[Paul Chan, an author of the study] and the other researchers were continuing to follow the patients in the heart attack study. They will be looking at whether the patients' insurance status affected their health or quality of life a year after treatment, or their odds of survival" (Bavley, 4/13).

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