Healthcare insurance improves prognosis of young cancer patients

Cancer patients
A new Dana Farber Cancer Institute study claims that young adults who have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act have better chances of recovery and live longer. The study, which was authored by Dr. Ayal Aizer and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, employed government data on thousands of patients between the ages of 20 and 40, from the years 2007 and 2009. The research highlighted benefits for young people who were not insured before Obamacare became effective.

According to Aizer, insured patients did better in every aspect. For example, they were found to be 16% more likely to seek early treatment for cancer when the condition can still be successfully managed, as opposed to waiting until the cancer has metastasized. Additionally, they were 20% more likely to survive cancer than individuals who were not insured. Since the Affordable Care Act makes healthcare insurance more accessible to young people -for instance with the dependent coverage provision- it would follow that more of them would enjoy the benefits reported in Aizer’s study.

While not exactly denying Aizer’s findings, many cancer specialists present at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual meeting -including ASCO president Dr. Clifford Huddis- have been quoted as failing to perceive a meaningful impact of Obamacare on routine patient care. This is despite, or rather because of the fact that those who can benefit more from the healthcare reform are not at a particularly high risk of cancer. As a matter of fact, cancer is an age-related condition that has a higher incidence in the elderly. Moreover, patients who are 65 years old or older already have Medicare coverage.

Chief executive of University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Dr. Ronald DePinho is more ambivalent. He has been very critical of healthcare exchange insurance programs, especially those that exclude cancer specialty hospitals like his own and Huddis’ Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. On the other hand, he does see many benefits for cancer patients, in particular with Obamacare’s focus on prevention and screening. Aizer insists that the impact of insurance in young people can’t be underestimated, for there is a “huge and heavy price for being uninsured.”