Race continues to impede access to health services, for acute as well as long-term care. Whites, for example, use disproportionately more days of nursing home care than do nonwhites, not simply because they are more likely to be private payers and, therefore, are preferred over nonwhites: the difference in utilization persists even among those whose nursing home stays are covered by Medicare. Using data from a study of patients awaiting alternative placement in North Carolina acute care general hospitals in 1991, this article examines racial differences in discharge delay, that is, in the time between when a patient is medically ready for discharge to another form of care and when he or she actually is discharged. Logistic regression and ordinary least squares are used heuristically to identify patient characteristics associated with delay, and two-way analyses of variance are used to document the independent effect of race. The results indicate that race has substantial independent explanatory power. This finding is reinforced by the analyses of variance with controls for the patient's payment source for long-term care, chronic condition or special care requirements, demographic attributes, family cooperativeness, whether the patient had a behavior problem that impeded the discharge planning process, and whether there was a financial problem in arranging for the patient's discharge. The inescapable conclusion is that nursing homes discriminate on the basis of race in admitting patients. This practice is patently objectionable; it also is costly to hospitals, thus to society, since hospitals bear the direct costs of delayed discharges and hospitals do not keep costs to themselves. While research is needed to determine whether the North Carolina findings are replicable in other states, past research suggests that the problem is not confined to this state.

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