, Volume 470, Issue 7, pp 1917-1924
Date: 27 Mar 2012

Few Insurance-Based Differences in Upper Extremity Elective Surgery Rates After Healthcare Reform

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Before the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, there were documented insurance-based disparities in access to orthopaedic surgeons and care of orthopaedic conditions. While Massachusetts passed healthcare reform in 2007 with many similar provisions, it is unknown whether the disparities were present during the period of the law’s enactment.


We asked whether differences in rates of surgery between patients with novel government-subsidized healthcare plans and other forms of insurance, and between uninsured and insured patients, were similar after institution of the Massachusetts reform laws.


We identified 7577 patients diagnosed with upper extremity injuries between January 1, 2007 and October 1, 2010. From an institutional administrative database, we extracted demographics, insurance status, and plan of care. Insurance categories included government-subsidized healthcare plan (Commonwealth Care), private insurance, workers compensation, military-related (TriCare), Medicare, Medicaid (MassHealth), non-Commonwealth Care, and other insured and uninsured. After adjusting for age, gender, and diagnosis, we compared the proportions of patients who underwent elective surgery.


Of 7577 patients, 1685 (22%) underwent elective upper extremity surgery. The adjusted rates of surgery were similar across most insurance categories, with higher rates in the workers compensation and TriCare categories compared with Commonwealth Care. Uninsured patients were as likely to undergo surgery as insured patients.


In a population with near-universal health insurance, a government-run health insurance exchange, and novel, government-subsidized, managed care plans, we found few insurance-based differences in rates of elective upper extremity orthopaedic surgery in a cohort of patients after healthcare reform.

Level of Evidence

Level IV, economic and decision analysis. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.