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Study links Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare to fewer cancer deaths

Study links Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare to fewer cancer deaths
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A new study released this week showed that cancer deaths dropped more in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) than in those that did not.

The study from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) found that states that expanded Medicaid saw a 29 percent drop in cancer deaths, compared to a 25 percent drop for states that did not.

"This is the first study to show the benefit of Medicaid expansion on cancer death rates on a national scale,” said Anna Lee, who is the lead author and radiation oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York. “We now have evidence that Medicaid expansion has saved the lives of many people with cancer across the United States.”

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The ACA, also known as ObamaCare, granted states the ability to expand Medicaid eligibility and offer subsidies to help people purchase health insurance. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia decided to expand their coverage during the time period examined, paving the way for 20 million more Americans to obtain coverage.

The ASCO compiled data from the National Center for Health Statistics and compared data from 2011-13, prior to full state expansion, and from 2015-17, after full state expansion of Medicaid. The study did not include deaths from cancer in patients age 65 or older, which were eligible for Medicare regardless of where they lived.

The study found that the Medicaid expansion had a particularly large impact on Hispanic cancer patients, which make up a larger proportion of the population in states that expanded the program than in those that did not. 

“There is a greater Hispanic population in states that have adopted Medicaid expansion, and they have almost three times the un-insurance rate as white adults,” said senior author Fumiko Chino, a radiation oncologist at MSK. “Our research shows that Hispanic patients with cancer may have benefited the most because they had the most to gain.”  

No significant mortality reduction was seen in black cancer patients who lived in states that expanded Medicaid. 

The researchers said they intend to expand on their research as more data is revealed. 

Nine other states have expanded Medicaid since 2017, though their cancer patients are not included in the study.