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Study Finds Failure to Address Heart Failure Treatment Inequities in Community Has High Opportunity Cost

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Black Americans in the US South have high rates of preventable heart failure hospitalizations, which reflects systemic inequities that also produce economic costs. A new study, published in Health Affairs, measured the direct medical costs of disparities in preventable heart failure admissions (excess admissions) among Medicare beneficiaries living in six states in the US South (Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina).

For the study, researchers used 2015–17 data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project and constructed negative binomial models with state-level fixed effects to calculate adjusted admission rates with heart failure as the principal diagnosis. They calculated the number of these admissions that would have been avoided if Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native Medicare beneficiaries had the same admission rates as White beneficiaries.

Findings from the study showed 28,213 excess admissions (48 percent excess) with $60,845,855 annual costs among Black beneficiaries, 3,499 (14 percent excess) with $8,179,381 annual costs among Hispanic beneficiaries, and 550 (51 percent excess) with $1,093,472 in annual costs among American Indian/Alaska Native beneficiaries. The study concluded that failure to address heart failure treatment inequities in the community has a high opportunity cost.

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