CHICAGO (Reuters) - Young
adults with cancer are far more likely to recover or
live longer if they have health insurance, a new study
on the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act
The study published on Monday reports benefits for young people who
were uninsured before the act, also called Obamacare, went into
effect this year.
"Patients who were insured did better in pretty much every regard,"
said Dr. Ayal Aizer of Dana Farber Cancer Institute In Boston, whose
study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The study used government data on thousands of patients aged 20 to
40 between 2007 and 2009.
He said insured patients were 16 percent more likely to seek
treatment for cancers earlier in the process, when the disease was
still curable, versus waiting until the cancer had spread to other
parts of the body.
Insured patients also were twice as likely as uninsured patients to
receive treatments such as radiation or surgery that could
potentially cure their cancers.
Most importantly, insured cancer patients were about 20 percent more
likely to survive than uninsured individuals.
Several cancer doctors at the American Society of Clinical Oncology
(ASCO) meeting this week said they have yet to see a major impact of
healthcare reform on routine patient care, largely because cancer is
an age-related disease and many patients aged 65 and older are
already insured through the government's Medicare insurance program.
Dr. Clifford Hudis, president of ASCO, said the group of people most
likely to benefit from the Affordable Care Act are not those at
highest risk for cancer, meaning the elderly.
But Aizer said the impact of insurance is significant for younger
people. "There is a huge and heavy price to pay for being
uninsured," Aizer said.
Dr. Ronald DePinho, chief executive of University of Texas MD
Anderson Cancer Center, has been a critic of the insurance programs
offered on the healthcare marketplace, many of which exclude cancer
specialty hospitals like his and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer
Center in New York.
"With cancer, which is the most complex of diseases, it takes
institutions with a lot of experience to be able to diagnose the
disease correctly and carry out multidisciplinary care of the
patients. So it's important that the patient be afforded with the
opportunity for access to care as well," he said.
Even so, DePinho sees a lot of benefits for cancer patients,
especially with the focus on prevention in the health law, which
covers major screening tests like mammograms with no co-pay.
"This tries to encourage individuals to be more proactive in taking
charge of their health through prevention and detection strategies,
which is critically important in cancer, because 50 percent of
cancers can be preventable, and we already know that early detection
of cancer has a very significant impact on survival," he said.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Richard Chang)