Background: Variation in the quality of ambulatory care may be a key factor in explaining disparities in health, and these disparities have large cost implications.
Purpose: This study identified differences in hospitalization rates for elderly African-American and white Marylanders for eight ambulatory care-sensitive conditions (ACSCs). It assessed the relative contribution of race to disparities in preventable hospitalizations after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as underlying prevalence. It also estimated the excess cost associated with these disparities.
Methods: Using prevention quality indicator specifications from the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality applied to 2006 Medicare claims data, eight ACSC hospitalization measures were developed for 569,896 Maryland Medicare beneficiaries. The analysis was conducted in 2008. A Poisson regression model identified race, age, gender, and income as factors associated with differences in ACSC hospitalization rates. Excess costs were estimated from excess hospitalizations of African Americans and the median cost per admission.
Results: African Americans had significantly higher rates of ACSC hospitalizations than whites for five of eight conditions after controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic factors. Excess costs from disparities in quality ranged from $8 million (heart failure) to $38,000 (urinary tract infection).
Conclusions: Race may be a key predictor of preventable hospitalizations for some ACSCs. Racial disparities in these hospitalizations represent excess costs to Medicare. Because ACSC admissions are potentially preventable with optimal ambulatory care, improving care for minority populations may reduce disparities and lower hospital costs.
2010. Published by Elsevier Inc.