Thanks to expanded Medicaid coverage from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), women diagnosed with breast cancer—and in particular, African American women who are more likely to experience breast cancer disparities—are getting their cancers found at earlier stages, according to researchers. The study findings were reported in JAMA Surgery.
Researchers analyzed data from 71,235 women diagnosed with breast cancer from 2012–2013 (before ACA expansion) and from 2015–2016 (after expansion). The women lived in 31 states that boosted their Medicaid coverage under the ACA and 14 states that did not.
In the expansion states, the average rate of uninsured patients with breast cancer fell from 23% to 14% and the rate of women diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer dropped from 23% to 20%. Among African American women in the expansion states, the difference fell even more: from 25% to 21%. Women in the nonexpansion states experienced no significant changes in the same diagnosis rate.
“If the cancer is diagnosed early, generally treatment is definitive and women have good overall survival,” the researchers said. “It’s important to get women healthcare access early. And when patients have access to health care, they’re more likely to utilize it.”
They are planning additional studies to compare the differences in breast cancer treatment and genetic testing between the expansion and nonexpansion states.