Impact of affordable care act–related insurance expansion policies on mortality and access to post-discharge care for trauma patients: An analysis of the national trauma data bank

Document Type



General Surgery


Background: Uninsured trauma patients have worse outcomes and worse access to post-discharge care that is critically important for recovery after injury. Little is known regarding the impact of the insurance coverage expansion policies of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most notably state-level Medicaid expansion, on trauma patients. In this study, we examine the national impact of these policies on payer mix, inpatient mortality, and access to post-acute care for trauma patients.
Methods: We used the 2011-2016 National Trauma Data Bank to evaluate for changes in insurance coverage among trauma patients 18-64 years old. Our pre-/post-expansion models defined 2011-2013 as the pre-policy period, 2015-2016 as the post-policy period, and 2014 as a washout year. To evaluate for policy-associated changes in inpatient mortality and discharge disposition among the policy-eligible sample, we leveraged multivariable linear regression techniques to adjust for year-to-year variation in patient demographics, injury characteristics, and facility traits. We then examined the relationship between the magnitude of facility-level reductions in uninsured patients and access to post-acute care after policy implementation.
Results: We identified 1,656,469 patients meeting inclusion criteria between 2011 and 2016. The pre-policy uninsured rate of 23.4% fell by 5.9 percentage-points after coverage expansion (p < 0.001), with a corresponding 7.5 percentage-point increase in Medicaid coverage (p < 0.001). After policy implementation, there were no significant changes in inpatient mortality. However, there was a >30% relative increase in discharge to a post-acute care facility and a similar increase in discharge with home health services (p < 0.001 for both). The greatest gains in access to post-acute services were seen among facilities with the greatest reductions in their uninsured rate (p = 0.003).
Conclusion: ACA-related coverage expansion policies, most notably Medicaid expansion, were associated with a >25% reduction in the uninsured rate among non-elderly adult trauma patients. Although no immediate impact on inpatient mortality was seen, insurance coverage expansion was associated with a higher proportion of patients receiving critically important post-discharge care

Publication (Name of Journal)

The journal of trauma and acute care surgery