Rate of Uninsured, Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients Plummeted in ACA's First Year
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been law in the United States since March 2010. As a result, today nearly 20 million previously uninsured Americans are covered by some form of health insurance. Until now, the ACA's impact on cancer patients has been difficult to gauge or quantify. But new data published in JAMA Oncology suggest that the impact has been appreciable. According to researchers at Indiana University, in the first year of the ACA's implementation, the number of newly diagnosed cancer patients who were uninsured fell by a third. The research also noted that the uninsured rate among cancer patients declined in states with Medicaid expansion, but remained static in states without Medicaid expansion.
"These findings suggest that the general increase in coverage seen in national ACA analyses extends to this high-risk population," wrote Aparna Soni, a doctoral candidate in business economics and public policy at IU's Kelley School of Business. "Treatment is often unaffordable for uninsured patients, and some studies suggest that expanding insurance coverage could improve cancer-related outcomes. Policy changes that reduce Medicaid funding or weaken protections for individuals with preexisting conditions could be particularly harmful for patients with cancer."
Researchers also pointed out that while the number of newly diagnosed cancer patients who were uninsured fell significantly across the board, some groups fared better than others. Declines in the uninsured rate among Hispanics, for example, led the way (a 38 percent drop in the number of uninsured cancer patients) while the decline was closer to 17 percent among African-Americans.