Association of Insurance Type With Inpatient Surgery 30-Day Complications and Costs

Published:October 13, 2022DOI:


      • Medicare and vulnerable insurance patients are more likely to undergo urgent/emergent surgeries.
      • Vulnerable patients had increased odds of reoperation and any complication versus private.
      • Vulnerable patients had higher hospital costs that were similar to private after adjusting for case status.
      • Increased presentation acuity in vulnerable patients drive increased odds of complications and costs.
      • Greatest impact on outcomes maybe from decreasing the incidence of urgent/emergent surgeries by improving access to care.



      Safety-net hospitals (SNHs) have higher postoperative complications and costs versus low-burden hospitals. Do low socioeconomic status/vulnerable patients receive care at lower-quality hospitals or are there factors beyond providers’ control? We studied the association of private, Medicare, and vulnerable insurance type with complications/costs in a high-burden SNH.


      Retrospective inpatient cohort study using National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) data (2013-2019) with cost data risk-adjusted by frailty, preoperative serious acute conditions (PASC), case status, and expanded operative stress score (OSS) to evaluate 30-day unplanned reoperations, any complication, Clavien-Dindo IV (CDIV) complications, and hospitalization variable costs.


      Cases (Private 1517; Medicare 1224; Vulnerable 3648) with patient mean age 52.3 y [standard deviation = 14.7] and 47.3% male. Adjusting for frailty and OSS, vulnerable patients had higher odds of PASC (aOR = 1.71, CI = 1.39-2.10, P < 0.001) versus private. Adjusting for frailty, PASC and OSS, Medicare (aOR = 1.27, CI = 1.06-1.53, P = 0.009), and vulnerable (aOR = 2.44, CI = 2.13-2.79, P < 0.001) patients were more likely to undergo urgent/emergent surgeries. Vulnerable patients had increased odds of reoperation and any complications versus private. Variable cost percentage change was similar between private and vulnerable after adjusting for case status. Urgent/emergent case status increased percentage change costs by 32.31%. We simulated “switching” numbers of private (3648) versus vulnerable (1517) cases resulting in an estimated variable cost of $49.275 million, a 25.2% decrease from the original $65.859 million.


      Increased presentation acuity (PASC and urgent/emergent surgeries) in vulnerable patients drive increased odds of complications and costs versus private, suggesting factors beyond providers’ control. The greatest impact on outcomes may be from decreasing the incidence of urgent/emergent surgeries by improving access to care.


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