Health insurance and racial disparities in pulmonary hypertension outcomes.
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OBJECTIVES: Pulmonary hypertension portends a poorer prognosis for blacks versus white populations, but the underlying reasons are poorly understood. We investigated associations of disease characteristics, insurance status, and race with clinical outcomes. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study of patients presenting for initial pulmonary hypertension evaluation at 2 academic referral centers. METHODS: We recorded insurance status (Medicare, Medicaid, private, self-pay), echocardiographic, and hemodynamics data from 261 patients (79% whites, 17% blacks) with a new diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension. Subjects were followed for 2.3 years for survival. Adjustment for covariates was performed with Cox proportional hazards modeling. RESULTS: Compared with white patients, blacks were younger (50 ± 15 vs 53 ± 12 years; P = .04), with females representing a majority of patients in both groups (80% vs 66%; P = .08) and similar functional class distribution (class 2/3/4: 30%/52%/16% blacks vs 33%/48%/14% whites; P = .69). Blacks diagnosed with incident pulmonary hypertension were more frequently covered by Medicaid (12.5% vs 0.7%) and had less private insurance (50% vs 61%; P = .007) than whites. At presentation, blacks had more right ventricular dysfunction (P = .04), but similar mean pulmonary arterial pressure (46 vs 45 mm Hg, respectively; P = .66). After adjusting for age and functional class, blacks had greater mortality risk (hazard ratio [HR], 2.06; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-3.44), which did not differ by race after additional adjustment for insurance status (HR, 1.74; 95% CI, 0.84-3.32; P =.13). CONCLUSIONS: In a large cohort of patients with incident pulmonary hypertension, black patients had poorer right-side heart function and survival rates than white patients. However, adjustment for insurance status in our cohort removed differences in survival by race.
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