Uninsured ignore heart attack symptoms, study finds

The Kansas City StarApril 14, 2010 

There's the pressure in the chest, the pain radiating through arms and shoulders, the queasiness, sweating, shortness of breath.

Warning signs of a heart attack should be hard to ignore. But that's just what many people try to do if they have little or no health insurance, a new study finds.

Uninsured people — and even people who have insurance but have trouble paying medical bills — wait significantly longer to go to a hospital for heart attacks than insured people who don't have major financial concerns about their health care.

"Even for those with the security blanket of insurance, it wasn't always enough," said researcher Paul Chan, a heart specialist at St. Luke's Hospital. "They knew they could get care, but there was no guarantee they could afford it. You can just imagine what it was like for the uninsured."

Or you can ask patients such as Larry Scott, who waited weeks after his symptoms appeared before seeing a doctor.

"I was more worried about creating a medical bill than about my health," Scott said.

His heart is now permanently damaged.

In a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Chan, St. Luke's heart specialist John Spertus and researchers at Yale New Haven Hospital, the Mayo Clinic and several other medical centers looked at data on 3,721 patients from across the country who had survived heart attacks. The patients went to 24 hospitals from 2005 to 2008.

The researchers found that 48.6 percent of uninsured patients waited more than six hours after their symptoms started to get to a hospital. That compared with 39.3 percent of patients who were insured and did not have significant problems paying for care.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service