Multiple Studies Show Medicaid Patients Receive Worse Cancer Care

New studies suggest that privately insured patients may receive better cancer care than Medicaid beneficiaries. Although a variety of factors impact patient access to cancer treatment, low-income patients were found to have greater difficulty with navigating health systems.

New studies suggest that privately insured patients may receive better cancer care than Medicaid beneficiaries. Although a variety of factors impact patient access to cancer treatment, low-income patients were found to have greater difficulty with navigating health systems.

“Research has shown that we can screen more patients, but that they get dropped along the way to treatment. We don’t give them full access into curative therapy,” said Jyoti Patel, MD, oncologist at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago and an American Society of Clinical Oncology spokesperson. “We need to do a better job to make sure that people who aren’t savvy or can’t advocate for themselves have that helping hand.”

Patients covered under Medicaid also often have difficulty finding a provider in their network, and can sometimes even be challenged by something as simple as finding a reliable form of transportation to the doctor’s office.

Researchers from the University of Tennessee Memphis found that doctors had a greater likelihood of detecting lymphoma at an earlier stage when patients were privately insured compared with those who were covered under Medicaid. Researchers reviewed data of a cohort which consisted of 6395 patients over a 4-year period. They found that 59% of privately insured patients were diagnosed with lymphoma before it had spread, whereas only 50% of Medicare patients received a similar diagnosis. The study also determined that just 35% of Medicare patients underwent radiation therapy versus 43% of privately insured patients, and 71% survived their lymphoma versus an 84% survival rate for those who were privately insured.

A second study at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland examined data for 31,957 patients who received treatment for melanoma between 1996 and 2009 in Ohio. Medicaid beneficiaries were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage melanoma. Other research determined that women in Chicago who were covered under Medicaid or Medicare were less likely to receive medically advanced forms of breast cancer diagnosis than those who were insured.

These findings demonstrate the important role filled by support staff in the continuum of care. They can guide Medicaid beneficiaries in making better care decisions and help ensure that they are receiving appropriate care. Dr Patel suggested that people such as nurse navigators can manage the care of Medicaid patients and advise them through their cancer treatment.

With recent data showing in April that Medicaid enrollment has increased by more than 1 million people, maintaining the quality of treatment for these patients will be essential. More than 8 million Americans have enrolled in private health plans since open enrollment began in 2013.

Around the Web

Medicaid Patients Get Worse Cancer Care: Studies [WebMD]

The Numbers Are in: 6 Million People have Enrolled in Medicaid & CHIP Since Oct. 1 [MedCity News]