Loss of Insurance Leads to Loss of Limb

13. April 2023
Eskild Bang Heinemeier

A significant study recently published in the Annals of Vascular Surgery has uncovered a troubling correlation between loss of health insurance coverage and increased risk of amputation. Led by Dr. Tze Woei Tan, a vascular surgeon and associate professor, the research team from the University of Arizona and Keck School of Medicine of USC, which includes co-senior author Dr. David G. Armstrong, a podiatric surgeon and professor of surgery, brings attention to this important issue.

Titled “The Impact of Health Insurance Loss on Amputation Rates in the United States,” the study highlights the consequences of losing insurance coverage. Researchers examined a large cohort of patients at risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD) and diabetic foot complications, noting that those without insurance were more likely to experience amputation.

The study found that individuals who lost their insurance coverage were 2.5 times more likely to undergo a major amputation compared to those with continuous coverage. This striking difference emphasizes the importance of consistent access to healthcare and the potential consequences of gaps in insurance.

“Our study demonstrates the critical role that health insurance plays in preventing amputations and preserving the quality of life for patients at risk of PAD and diabetic foot complications,” said Dr. Tan. “We hope these findings will encourage policymakers and healthcare providers to prioritize continuous and accessible care for these vulnerable patients.”

Dr. Armstrong added, “The relationship between insurance coverage and amputation risk is an important piece of the puzzle in understanding how to optimize patient care. This study serves as a reminder that we must continue to work toward ensuring that all patients have access to the comprehensive care they need to prevent devastating outcomes.”

The study emphasizes the need for comprehensive, coordinated care to prevent amputation, particularly for those with PAD and diabetes-related foot complications. Early diagnosis, routine follow-ups, and access to specialized care are essential for preserving limb health and reducing the risk of amputation.

This study was supported by the K-Award National Institute of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) Career Development Award (1K23DK122126) and is partially supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Award Number 1R01124789-01A1.

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