Cancer patients on Medicaid, a US public medical cover, survived less time than people with private or no insurance, new data shows.
The research, which looked only at highly treatable types of tumors, found that people on Medicaid were between 1.6 and 2.4 times more likely to die within five years than other patients.
“While Medicaid is potentially lifesaving, it is better to be able to support yourself and have insurance that protects at a higher level than just Medicaid,” said Dr. Derek Raghavan, of the Levine Cancer Institute in North Carolina.
Raghavan and colleagues looked at eight different cancers, such as testicular cancer and early-stage colon and lung cancer, in patients from an Ohio cancer registry.
With treatment, patients typically survive more than five years with those diseases, so doctors often refer to them as “curable.”
The study, published in the journal ‘Cancer’, tracked more than 11,000 patients with private or no insurance and 1,345 Medicaid beneficiaries, half of whom enrolled after or around the time they got their diagnosis. All were between 15 and 54 years old.
Of the non-Medicaid patients, fewer than one in 10 died within five years of their cancer diagnosis.
By comparison, more than one in five Medicaid patients died during that period, and those who enrolled in Medicaid later survived the shortest time.
Dr. Karin Rhodes, another doctor who worked on the study, said while the results highlight the importance of being covered by health insurance, there could be a number of explanations for the survival gap.
More research is needed to find out if Medicaid patients receive worse treatment than others, the doctors said.