States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act halved the number of uninsured cancer patients, a new U.S. study finds.
This matters because "uninsured cancer patients are more likely to go without needed care and treatment, such as radiation therapy or surgery to remove tumors," said study lead author Dr. Fumiko Chino.
She is a radiation oncology resident at the Duke University School of Medicine.
Chino and her colleagues analyzed the records of more than 197,000 cancer patients ages 18 to 64. All were newly diagnosed with cancer between 2011 and 2014 and received radiation as part of their treatment.
The percentage of uninsured patients fell 52 percent on average in states that expanded Medicaid, while Medicaid enrollment rose from 15 to 18 percent. Medicaid is the publicly funded insurance program for the poor.
In states that did not expand Medicaid, the uninsured rate fell just 5 percent. There also was an increase in non-Medicaid insurance (from about 76 percent to 77 percent) and a decrease in Medicaid enrollment (about 16 percent to nearly 15 percent).
"We conducted a study looking at insurance patterns before and after Medicaid expansion and found that un-insurance rates dropped significantly following expansion," Chino said in a news release from the American Society for Radiation Oncology.
"The program appears to have improved access and decreased health care disparities in cancer patients receiving radiation therapy, with the greatest benefits seen among vulnerable individuals living in the highest poverty areas," she added.
The findings were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology, in San Diego. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has information on radiation therapy.
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