Uninsured delay heart attack care

During a heart attack, time matters; that’s why hospital doctors try to open clogged heart arteries within an hour and a half of the patient arriving in an emergency room (the so-called 90-minute door-to-balloon standard). But a study today in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people without health insurance and those concerned about the cost do delay seeking emergency care for hours during a heart attack.

The researchers from the American Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo, Yale University and elsewhere examined the records of 3,721 heart attack patients at 24 U.S. hospitals between April 11, 2005 and December 31, 2008. More than 61 percent of the patients (2,294) were insured without financial concerns, another 18.5 percent (689) were insured, but had financial concerns about paying for care, and nearly 20 percent (738) were uninsured.

Patients who were uninsured or insured but concerned about costs were more likely to have delays of more than six hours in getting to the hospital. Insured patients not worried about money for care were significantly more likely to get to the hospitals in less than two hours compared with the other two groups of patients.

The researchers concluded that “lack of health insurance and financial concerns about accessing care among those with health insurance were each associated with delays in seeking emergency care.”