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Is lower 30-day mortality posthospital admission among blacks unique to the Veterans Affairs health care system?

Polsky D, Lave J, Klusaritz H, Jha A, Pauly MV, Cen L, Xie H, Stone R, Chen Z, Volpp K. Is lower 30-day mortality posthospital admission among blacks unique to the Veterans Affairs health care system? Medical care. 2007 Nov 1; 45(11):1083-9.

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BACKGROUND: Several studies have reported lower risk-adjusted mortality for blacks than whites within the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, particularly for those age 65 and older. This finding may be a result of the VA's integrated health care system, which reduces barriers to care through subsidized comprehensive health care services. However, no studies have directly compared racial differences in mortality within 30 days of hospitalization between the VA and non-VA facilities in the US health care system. OBJECTIVE: To compare risk-adjusted 30-day mortality for black and white males after hospital admission to VA and non-VA hospitals, with separate comparisons for patients younger than age 65 and those age 65 and older. RESEARCH DESIGN: Retrospective observational study using hospital claims data from the national VA system and all non-VA hospitals in Pennsylvania and California. SUBJECTS: A total of 369,155 VA and 1,509,891 non-VA hospitalizations for a principal diagnosis of pneumonia, congestive heart failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, hip fracture, stroke, or acute myocardial infarction between 1996 and 2001. MEASURES: Mortality within 30 days of hospital admission. RESULTS: Among those under age 65, blacks in VA and non-VA hospitals had similar odds ratios of 30-day mortality relative to whites for gastrointestinal bleeding, hip fracture, stroke, and acute myocardial infarction. Among those age 65 and older, blacks in both VA and non-VA hospitals had significantly reduced odds of 30-day mortality compared with whites for all conditions except pneumonia in the VA. The differences in mortality by race are remarkably similar in VA and non-VA settings. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that factors associated with better short-term outcomes for blacks are not unique to the VA.

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