New Findings: Medicaid Surgery Patients Worse Off

Kristina Robb-Dover | June 9th, 2014

Surgery Complications, Malpractice More Common for Medicaid PatientsMedicaid patients under the knife are more likely to experience medical malpractice, insofar as they will more likely receive sub-par healthcare next to their private insurance counterparts, a new study by University of Michigan researchers finds.

Not only will Medicaid patients arrive at the hospital in worse condition; they’ll also experience more complications from surgery and stay longer at the hospital following their operation, costing more than patients with private insurance, the study found.

Medicaid patients have more surgery complications than privately insured

Dr. Darrell A. Campbell Jr., the chief medical officer of the University of Michigan Health System, who led the study, summed up the study’s findings this way: “The Medicaid patients were sicker, and they did not do as well following surgery. They stayed in the hospital longer, and that increases the cost.”

This discrepancy between private and publicly insured patients appears even greater when age is taken into account: the Medicaid patients in the study were generally younger than the privately insured patients, yet nonetheless twice as likely to smoke and suffered from poorer health habits, such as diabetes, lung disease and blood vessel blockage.

The study, published last month in the journal JAMA Surgery, looked at 14,000 patients undergoing operations in 52 hospitals in Michigan from July 2012 to June 2013. The study’s findings may be a preview of what may be to come under Obamacare legislation, which expands the scope of Medicaid in Michigan to include another half million people.

“We supported the expansion of Medicaid because it means that we can get patients into medical care and get them into optimum shape for an operation,” Dr. Campbell went on to say in an interview. “Being a heavy smoker predisposes you to get pneumonia after an operation. For a diabetic, if blood sugar is out of control, that increases the chances of a wound infection after surgery. If we can address these issues preoperatively, we can cut down the problems we see after an operation.”

Medicaid patients more likely to die from surgery

The following findings suggest that Medicaid patients undergoing surgery may be at greater risk of experiencing serious and even fatal complications of the kind that suggest medical malpractice may have been at play. For example:

  • In the month after their operations, the Medicaid patients faced two-thirds more complications and were more than twice as likely to die, compared with those on private insurance.
  • Medicaid patients typically required extra time in the hospital — three days, on average, rather than two — and were more likely to return after going home from surgery.
  • Medicaid patients “had more emergency operations and used 50 percent more hospital resources than patients with other kinds of insurance.”

Now, on the assumption that many more uninsured persons will gain coverage with the expansion of Medicaid, the new Obamacare health law in Michigan will reduce special payments to hospitals serving large numbers of low-income patients.

In the meantime, Dr. Campbell and other experts remain wary, voicing concerns that the cuts could create financial shortfalls for hospitals treating big numbers of Medicaid patients. If this becomes true, medical care for Medicaid patients in these hospitals may only decline further, leading to more medical malpractice claims.

New York medical malpractice lawyers can help victims of negligence

If you or a loved one has suffered injury from a Medicaid-financed surgery, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering.

A New York medical malpractice attorney may be able to help. The Sanders Firm offers more than 45 years of trial experience in New York, helping victims of medical malpractice find their way back from their injuries. To learn how you may qualify, call our offices today for a free consultation at 1.800.324.7752.


  1. The New York Times, “Poorer Health of Surgery Patients on Medicaid May Alter Law’s Bottom Line,” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/us/poorer-health-of-surgery-patients-on-medicaid-may-alter-laws-bottom-line.html?_r=2

  2. Advisory Board Company, Medicaid patients are twice as likely to die after surgery, http://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2014/05/16/medicaid-patients-are-twice-as-likely-to-die-after-surgery