A new study has highlighted the importance of international health insurance, revealing that people with medical cover have significantly higher survival rates following a heart attack than those without.
The research, which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and led by Derek Ng from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found this factor could explain disparities between the outcomes of African Americans and white people in the US following significant cardiac events.
Mr Ng and his colleagues examined whether or not the risk of early death was related to race or medical insurance status.
They investigated a sample of patients admitted to hospitals in Maryland, 4,908 of which had suffered from an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), 1,293 who had had a stroke and 6,758 who suffered from coronary atherosclerosis.
Earlier studies had shown that black people living in poor urban districts of the US have higher-than-average rates of early death, particularly from cardiovascular diseases.
Underinsurance had been thought to be a key factor in this, as it can lead to inadequate or insufficient treatment.
The researchers found that patients with private health insurance died later than those with inadequate health cover, while survival rates between black and white patients were broadly similar.
Individuals deemed to be underinsured were found to have a 31 per cent higher risk of premature death following a heart attack and a 50 per cent greater likelihood after atherosclerosis than those with enough insurance, with this effect found to be independent of the severity of the disease, as well as race and the socioeconomic status of the research subject's neighbourhood.
"Among those admitted to the hospital with an acute cardiovascular event, there was an increased risk of mortality among subjects who were underinsured compared to those who had private insurance," the authors concluded.
"These results underscore the need to closely investigate the factors relating to health insurance that may explain these disparities," they added, claiming: "Indeed, targeting these factors may relieve the burden of mortality disproportionally affecting those who are underinsured."
This is not the first study to indicate that international private medical insurance reduces the risk of people dying from dangerous illnesses, with recent research published in the American Journal of Public Health showing women without insurance are more likely to have cervical cancer discovered at a late stage than those who have policies.