Health Insurance Coverage for Cancer Varies by Demographics, Cancer Type

Highest uninsured rates found in patients with testicular, stomach, and cervical cancers.

Highest uninsured rates found in patients with testicular, stomach, and cervical cancers.

Health insurance coverage for cancer patients varies across demographics and the type of cancer, a recent study found.

The study, published online in CANCER, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, suggests the expansion of coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act may disproportionally benefit certain patient populations, the researchers wrote.

"Both insurance status and type of cancer are affected by demographic factors, and it was interesting to see how each varies with the other,” said co-study lead Usama Mahmood, MD, in a press release.

The study evaluated the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database for incidence and survival data from population-based cancer registries in the United States. Included were 688,794 patients between the ages of 18 to 64 years diagnosed with 1 of the top 25 cancers between 2007 and 2010.

The results showed that younger, non-White, and unmarried patients who live in counties with higher poverty levels and in rural areas were less likely to have insurance. It was also found that men were less likely to have insurance than women, while people who live in the Southern United States were less likely to have insurance than people who live in other areas of the country.

Beyond racial and demographic differences, the results showed insurance rates had a large disparity by cancer type. The highest rates of uninsured patients were found in testicular, stomach, and cervical cancers, while the lowest uninsured rates were found in thyroid, prostate, and breast cancers.

The most prevalent cancer types in uninsured patients were lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer. Lung cancer had the highest death rate among uninsured patients.

"Further research will be required to determine how changes in health care coverage impact the presentation, treatment, and survival of cancer patients," Dr. Mahmood concluded.