Affordable Care Act Reduces Financial Barriers for Younger Cancer Survivors

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) resulted in fewer financial barriers to health care for cancer survivors between 18 and 64 years of age, according to a study published in JCO Oncology Practice. The investigators said the ACA helped lower the financial burden for younger cancer survivors to its lowest estimated levels in 20 years.

The study analyzed data gathered from more than 20,000 Americans who responded to the National Health Interview Survey, a series of interviews conducted by a part of the CDC that collects data on a broad number of health care topics, including chronic conditions and vaccinations. The investigators found that younger cancer survivors were less likely to delay treatment due to cost and had less trouble paying for medications and dental care between 2014 and 2018. This 5-year period is the timeframe in which certain key features of the ACA went into effect, including the Health Insurance Marketplace, which allowed individuals, families, and small businesses to compare and purchase health insurance plans.

“There has been a lot of talk about the ACA affecting people who don't have the Medicare safety net,” said Christopher Su, MD, a clinical fellow in the division of hematology and oncology at Michigan Medicine, in a press release. “We were able to drill down to that and show that it did make a difference to younger cancer survivors.”

In contrast, cancer survivors 65 years of age and older experienced little change in their ability to afford health care after the ACA went into effect. According to the study authors, this is likely because so many of these patients were on Medicare.

The investigators then traced these metrics backwards over the past 2 decades. They found that between 2015 and 2017, younger cancer survivors were more likely to be able to afford their health care than they were at any time since 1999. Additionally, the number of younger cancer survivors who were uninsured dropped and Medicaid enrollment increased for this group after the ACA became law.

“The younger working population doesn't have pensions,” Su said in the release. “Most don't have a rainy-day fund stored away for them if they get cancer. They're still trying to work, still trying to put bread on the table. But the ACA made it easier to sign up for Medicaid, to sign up for a health insurance plan that's affordable to them, and now they have a better umbrella to fall back on for their health care expenses without jeopardizing their already precarious finances because cancer put them out of work or reduced the time that they could be working.”

REFERENCE

Financial barriers fell for some cancer survivors after Affordable Care Act [news release]. EurekAlert; July 13, 2021. Accessed July 19, 2021. https://new.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-07/mm-u-fbf070921.php