Medicaid Cuts Linked to Later-Stage Cancer Diagnoses

Medicaid is the largest insurance program in the United States and provides health care coverage for many low-income individuals. Medicaid is administered at the state level, and therefore, the structure and extent of coverage provided in each state varies across the country and is subject to economic policy changes.

Lindsay Sabik, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management and member of the Hillman Biobehavioral Oncology Program, studies the impact of government policies on health care. In particular, she is interested in the role of health insurance in facilitating access to care and the impact of changes in insurance on cancer outcomes.

In a study recently published in the journal Cancer, Dr. Sabik and colleagues examined the effects of a Medicaid policy change in Tennessee in 2005. Due to financial difficulties, the Tennessee Medicaid program terminated coverage for nonelderly adults who failed to meet traditional requirements, resulting in the disenrollment of 170,000 patients. Using cancer registry data, the researchers determined that women who were diagnosed with breast cancer after the Medicaid cuts had later-stage disease at diagnosis than those who were diagnosed before the cuts. Furthermore, women living in low-income zip codes were found to have the largest increase in late stage of disease at the time of diagnosis after the disenrollment, suggesting that these women were not able to access screening services that could have facilitated an earlier diagnosis.

Watch Dr. Sabik discuss these findings in the video.