Kentucky Health News
Adolescents and young adults who don’t have insurance are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancer than their peers who have health insurance, says the American Cancer Society, in what sounds like a warning to an age group that is key to the success of health reform.
Anthony Robbins, the society’s director of health services research, and other researchers found that uninsured females were twice as likely, and males half again as likely, as insured people of the same age to be diagnosed with advanced cancer.
An advanced cancer diagnosis means that the cancer has spread to multiple parts of the body or is considered not curable, the society said in a press release. It is more difficult and expensive to treat and more deadly. The study, published in the March issue of Cancer, sampled data from nearly 260,000 cancer patients ages 15 to 39 in the National Cancer Database between 2004 through 2010.
Uninsured patients tended to be younger and male, and were more likely to be black or Hispanic, and more likely to reside in the South. They were also more likely to have lower income and education levels.
Young adults have experienced the least benefit from recent progress in the fight against cancer, but federal health reform could mitigate that, the study’s authors said.
“The findings suggest that policies such as the Affordable Care Act that increase the number of people in America with health coverage will result in fewer late-stage cancer diagnoses and save lives,” the authors said. “However, the success of these efforts may be directly tied to the fate of the Medicaid expansion component.”
Kentucky is among the states that have expanded Medicaid’s eligibility to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty threshold. About 48 percent of the enrollees in Kynect, the state online marketplace for health insurance, are under the age of 35, according to a press release from Gov. Steve Beshear’s office.
Substantial enrollment of people under 35, who often go without insurance because they think they are in good health and will remain that way, is considered essential for the success of health reform, because premiums from healthy people subsidize care for the less healthy, many of whom were unable to get affordable insurance before reform.