Colon cancer detected earlier in states that expanded Medicaid, study finds

Patients who live in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA were more likely to receive an earlier diagnosis of colon cancer than those who live in states that didn't expand the program, according to a study published Nov. 23 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons

For the study, researchers used the National Cancer Data Base to analyze Medicaid and uninsured patients before expansion (2011-12) and after (2015-16). They compared patients in states that didn't expand Medicaid under the ACA to those that did in January 2014. Researchers compared patient and facility characteristics, cancer staging, treatment decisions and surgical outcomes between the groups.

What they found is patients in states that expanded Medicaid saw an increase in stage 1 diagnoses and treatment. Additionally, more patients with early-stage cancer were treated within 30 days and more stage 4 patients received palliative care.

"Medicaid expansion correlated with earlier diagnosis, enhanced access, and improved surgical care for colon cancer patients. These findings highlight the importance of improving health insurance coverage and may help guide future policy efforts," the researchers concluded.

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