The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, may help improve cancer outcomes for young people who would’ve otherwise been uninsured, according to a new study. Researchers from Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center along with Harvard Medical School uncovered the dangerous possibilities of being an uninsured young person.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, reports benefits for young people who were uninsured before the ACA went into effect and the coverage those with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, will receive.  

"We found that patients who have insurance coverage do better on every measure," said study’s co-author Dr. Ayal Aizer of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program.

There were over 47 million nonelderly uninsured Americans in 2012, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Decreasing the number of uninsured Americans is one of top priority for the ACA to accomplish. Of those polled who were uninsured, 31.6 percent said insurance was not affordable and another 29.4 percent said they lost their job.

Of the 39,447 cancer patients between the ages of 20 to 40, those who had insurance had a 16 percent higher likelihood of having a potentially curable cancer because they had their condition checked more frequently. In fact, insured cancer patients were about two times more likely to receive radiation or surgery for their disease, and 20 percent more likely to survive.

"Extra consideration will need to be given to ensure that at-risk patients can obtain insurance coverage under the ACA," the study’s authors wrote.

The 2,578 patients who were uninsured in the National Cancer Institute-sponsored database, accounted for only seven percent of the researcher’s population. They were often found to be younger, male, non-white, unmarried, and more likely to be from lower median income levels and education levels.

"Overall, the ACA is going to improve health coverage for young people, but we can't forget about some young people who may feel they can't afford the premiums," said senior author Dr. Paul Nguyen of Radiation Oncology at DF/BWCC.

The authors wrote in their article that "extra consideration will need to be given to ensure that at-risk patients can obtain insurance coverage under the ACA."

The ACA extends young adults’ coverage under their parents’ health plans until the age of 26, and those young, healthy people who choose not to remain under parents' plans may have to pay for high premiums in order to subsidize and lower the costs for older adults. Currently, only 24 percent of the 2.3 million who have signed up for the ACA are between the ages of 18 to 34 years old, which is well below the Obama administration’s target 40 percent.

 

Source:  Aizer A, Nguyen P. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2014.