Obamacare May Have Helped Close 'Race Gap' in Cancer Care

News Picture: Obamacare May Have Helped Close 'Race Gap' in Cancer Care

MONDAY, June 3, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Expanding Medicaid coverage after the Affordable Care Act seems to have narrowed U.S. racial differences in cancer treatment, a new study suggests.

Before the Affordable Care Act, blacks diagnosed with advanced cancer were 4.8 percentage points less likely than whites to get treatment within the month after diagnosis, the researchers said.

States that expanded Medicaid in 2014, however, saw the number of black patients getting timely care increase from 43.5% to 49.6%. White patients saw a smaller increase, from 48.3% to 50.3%.

These numbers suggest that Medicaid expansion improved the quality of care, the researchers say.

"The post-expansion difference between the two groups' access to timely care was no longer statistically significant," Amy Davidoff, a senior research scientist at Yale School of Public Health, said in a university news release.

For the study, researchers used electronic health records from 2011 and 2019 to collect data on nearly 31,000 patients across 40 U.S. states.

The researchers defined timely treatment as starting chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy within 30 days of diagnosis.

Although the researchers took factors such as type of cancer, age, sex, region, cancer stage at diagnosis and unemployment rates, the study cannot prove that expanded Medicaid improved care, only that the two are associated.

The findings were presented Sunday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, in Chicago. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

-- Steven Reinberg

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SOURCE: Yale University, news release, June 2, 2019