Uninsured Cancer Patients Die Sooner Than Insured
Cancer patients who have no health insurance are 1.6 times as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage, according to a study conducted by the American Cancer Society that will appear in the January issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a journal published by ACS, AP/Long Island Newsday reports.
For the study, Elizabeth Ward and colleagues at ACS examined medical records from 1,500 U.S. hospitals that provide cancer treatment. Researchers focused on 600,000 adult cancer patients younger than age 65 who began to receive treatment in 1999 and 2000 and who had private health insurance, coverage through Medicaid or no coverage.
The study found that 35% of participants who had no health insurance died within five years, compared with 23% of those who had private coverage. According to the study, participants with no health insurance also were less likely to receive recommended tests for cancer, and their cancer was more likely to have spread before diagnosis.
The study found that the results were consistent among different racial groups, but researchers could not determine whether education levels or other illnesses had an effect. Experts said that the study "hints at problems with quality of care after diagnosis, such as whether the patient got the appropriate operation from a high-quality surgeon, whether the tumor was thoroughly evaluated by a high-quality pathologist, and whether there was access to needed chemotherapy and radiation," AP/Newsday reports.
In addition, experts said that the study "offers important context for the national discussion about health care reform," although the "uninsured are believed to account for just a fraction of U.S. cancer deaths," according to AP/Newsday.
In an editorial that will accompany the study, ACS President Elmer Huerta cited the need to address health care reform, adding, "The truth is that our national reluctance to face these facts is condemning thousands of people to die from cancer each year" (Stobbe, AP/Long Island Newsday, 12/20).
An ACS release is available online.