Privately insured people with cancer were diagnosed earlier and lived longer than those who were uninsured or were covered by Medicaid, according to two recent studies.
In one study, researchers examined data from more than 13,600 adult patients who had glioblastoma multiforme, the most common type of malignant brain tumor, between 2007 and 2012. The other study analyzed data from more than 10,200 adults who were diagnosed with testicular cancer between 2007 and 2011.
Both studies, published online in the journal Cancer in August, relied on data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program. SEER tracks cancer incidence and survival in the United States.
The two cancers generally progress very differently. Glioblastoma multiforme is very aggressive; patients generally don't live much more than a year following diagnosis and the five-year survival rate is less than 5 percent. Conversely, testicular cancer responds well to chemotherapy even if it has spread to other parts of the body. The five-year survival rate overall is 95 percent.
But regardless of cancer type, patients with private insurance had a survival advantage.
Though the Medicaid patients fared worse than the uninsured patients in this regard, that might be because, until recently, some of them, too, had been uninsured, the researchers say, and only enrolled in Medicaid after their cancer was diagnosed.
Compared to privately insured men in the study, uninsured men were 88 percent more likely to die of the cancer, and Medicaid patients were 51 percent more likely to die of the disease.
A similar pattern emerged in the glioblastoma multiforme study. Patients who were either uninsured or on Medicaid were more likely to have a larger tumor at the time of diagnosis. An uninsured patient was 14 percent more likely to have a shorter survival time than someone who was privately insured, while a patient on Medicaid was 10 percent more likely to have a shorter survival time, the study found.
"These are young men dying of a potentially curable disease," Markt says. "There are many opportunities for improvement here."
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