ACA Medicaid expansion lowered colon cancer risk in Ky.
A new UK study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons shows a direct link between the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion and the effect of colon cancer on Kentuckians.
In the study, researchers looked at statistics for screening, incidence and outcomes of colon cancer from the Kentucky Hospital Discharge Database in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Cancer Registry. Pre-ACA Medicaid expansion (2011-2013) – where approximately 14 percent of Kentuckians were uninsured – was compared to post-ACA Medicaid expansion (2014-16), where that number dropped to about six percent.
Results showed a 230 percent increase in the number of Medicaid patients who received colon cancer screening post-expansion compared to Medicaid patients who received screening prior to the expansion. This was particularly prominent in the Appalachian region of the state, where 43 percent more patients received screening post-expansion. For Medicaid patients in Appalachia, data also showed a 9.3 percent increase in early stage diagnosis of colon cancer – when the disease is more easily treated – and a 27 percent decrease in risk of death.
Kentucky ranks first in the nation for colon cancer incidence and fifth for mortality. Colon cancer screening can actually help prevent the disease because it gives doctors an opportunity to find and remove pre-cancerous lesions before they become malignant. Kentucky has historically had poor colon cancer screening rates, but the state has seen great improvement in the past two decades due to massive public health efforts.
“Colorectal cancer is treatable, and it’s also preventable through appropriate screening,” said Dr. Avinash Bhakta, colorectal surgeon at the UK Markey Cancer Center and lead author on the study. “The takeaway here is that screening does matter, and the expansion of Medicaid has increased usage of colon cancer screening for many Kentuckians who otherwise wouldn’t have had access.”