Uninsured Cancer Patients Almost Twice As Likely To Die

Armen Hareyan's picture

Cancerpatients who have no health insurance are 1.6 times as likely to die withinfive years as those with private coverage, according to a study conducted bythe American Cancer Society, AP/Long Island Newsday reports. The study was publishedonline and will appear in the January issue of CA: A Cancer Journal forClinicians, a journal published by ACS.

For the study, Elizabeth Ward and colleagues at ACS examined medical recordsfrom 1,500 U.S.hospitals that provide cancer treatment. Researchers focused on 600,000 adultcancer patients younger than age 65 who began to receive treatment in 1999 and2000 and who had private health insurance, coverage through Medicaid or nocoverage.


The study found that 35% of participants who had no health insurance diedwithin five years, compared with 23% of those who had private coverage.According to the study, participants with no health insurance also were lesslikely to receive recommended tests for cancer, and their cancer was morelikely 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 illnesseshad an effect. Experts said that the study "hints at problems with qualityof care after diagnosis, such as whether the patient got the appropriateoperation from a high-quality surgeon, whether the tumor was thoroughlyevaluated by a high-quality pathologist, and whether there was access to neededchemotherapy and radiation," AP/Newsday reports.

In addition, experts said that the study "offers important context for thenational discussion about health care reform," although the"uninsured are believed to account for just a fraction of U.S. cancerdeaths," according to AP/Newsday. In an editorial that willaccompany the study, ACS President Elmer Huerta cited the need to addresshealth care reform, adding, "The truth is that our national reluctance toface these facts is condemning thousands of people to die from cancer eachyear" (Stobbe, AP/Long Island Newsday, 12/20).

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