New research shows the death rate for three major cancers went down as a result of Medicaid expansions linked to the Affordable Care Act. Screenshot courtesy Healthcare.gov
Expanded Medicaid passed in some states as part of the Affordable Care Act has significantly reduced deaths from newly diagnosed breast, lung and colon cancers, a new study finds.
Death rates from these cancers are lower in states that opted for expanded Medicaid than in those that didn't. The positive trend is largely due to earlier diagnosis, which increases the odds of survival, the researchers said.
Expanded Medicaid captures more low-income people by including those at or below 138% of the federal poverty level.
Earlier studies have shown that Medicaid is associated with increased cancer screening and earlier diagnosis.
For the study, the researchers used the U.S. National Cancer Database to track more than 523,000 patients who were newly diagnosed with breast, lung or colorectal cancer from 2012 through 2015.
"We found that Medicaid expansion was associated with a significant decrease in mortality compared to states without such expansion," said researcher Dr. Miranda Lam, from Dana-Farber, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston.
Under expanded Medicaid, there was a 2% decline in death from the pre- to post-expansion period, the researchers found. No change was seen among states without expanded Medicaid.
If the 2% reduction in deaths was seen in all states, then among the approximately 69,000 patients diagnosed with cancer in those states, 1,384 lives would be saved each year, the researchers calculated.
This suggests that the decline in deaths linked with Medicaid expansion is mostly due to diagnosing cancer at an earlier stage, the study authors said.
"Increased Medicaid coverage may remove barriers to accessing the health care system for screening and timely symptom evaluation, and that can translate into better outcomes for patients," Lam said in a Dana-Farber news release.
"We were reassured to find that patients living in areas of the lowest quartile of median household income showed a modest decrease in mortality after Medicaid expansion," Lam said. "We also found that the mortality improvements occurred in both Black and white populations."
The report was published online Nov. 5 in JAMA Network Open.
For more on expanded Medicaid, head to HealthCare.gov.
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