| CHICAGO, June 2
CHICAGO, June 2 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 shows.
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
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
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)