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How Obamacare Boosted Lung Cancer Survival
  • Posted January 16, 2024

How Obamacare Boosted Lung Cancer Survival

As more Americans with lung cancer gained access to quality care after passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), their post-surgical survival rates rose, new data shows.

The ACA (often called Obamacare) triggered the expansion of Medicaid coverage in many states. People with lung cancer who lived in states that took advantage of that move reaped a benefit, researchers found.

"This study is further proof that expanding Medicaid saves lives,"said Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network (CAN).

"We know what we need to do to end cancer as we know it for everyone, most critically of which is that people with cancer have access to the care they need -- including the crucial types of post-operative care this study analyzes," she said in a news release from the American Cancer Society (ACS), which funded the new research.

As researchers behind the latest study noted, the month or two after the surgical removal of a lung tumor is a precarious time for patients.

"Especially after a major procedure like lung cancer surgery, it's crucial that people have access to timely care,"said study lead author Dr. Leticia Nogueira, scientific director of health services research at the ACS.

Would giving more people access to Medicaid-covered services help?

To find out, Nogueira's group tracked lung cancer patient histories and outcomes from a major national database for the years 2008 to 2019.

The nearly 15,000 patients in the study were between the ages of 45 and 64 at the time they underwent tumor removal surgeries for stage 1, 2 and 3 lung cancers.

Nogueira's group tracked patient survival rates over the first 90 days following the surgery.

They found that survival increased for patients living in states that expanded Medicare after Obamacare was enacted.

For example, in those states, rates of death during the first 30 days after a surgery declined from 0.97% in the pre-ACA period to 0.26% in the post-ACA period.

Similar trends were seen in the 90-day post-surgical death rate: A drop from from 2.63% to 1.32%.

These findings held true even after the researchers looked at factors such as the stage of cancer at time of diagnosis and rates of other illnesses that patients might have had.

The study was published Jan. 12 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

"Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. and the leading cause of cancer-related mortality, but Medicaid expansion can help improve access to lifesaving care,"Nogueira said in an ACS news release.

The ACS has long supported the expansion of Medicaid services.

"ACS CAN continues to urge the 10 states that have yet to increase Medicaid eligibility to expand access quickly," Lacasse said. "Lives are at stake."

More information

Find out more about surgery for lung cancer at the American Lung Association.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, Jan. 12, 2024

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