Study: Affordable Care Act Reduced Cancer Mortality


Medicaid expansion was associated with a 2% drop in cancer mortality, a recent study found.

The expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been linked to lower mortality rates in breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

The ACA was passed in 2010 and gives states the option of expanding eligibility for Medicaid. Currently, 39 states have expanded Medicaid, which offers government-funded health insurance to low-income families and individuals with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level.

Investigators used data from the National Cancer Database to track 523,802 patients diagnosed with breast, lung, or colorectal cancers between 2012 and 2015. They then compared the mortality rates of patients who lived in states with expanded Medicaid programs to those that did not.

According to the study, Medicaid expansion was associated with a 2% decrease in hazard of death, whereas the non-expansion group had no change to mortality. In the states that did not expand Medicaid, approximately 69,000 people are diagnosed with cancer annually, according to the study. A 2% reduction would translate to 1384 lives saved every year, the study authors found. Mortality improvements occurred in both Black and white patient groups.

"Increased Medicaid coverage may remove barriers to accessing the healthcare system for screening and timely symptom evaluation, and that can translate into better outcomes for patients," said lead study author Miranda Lam, MD, MBA, of Dana-Farber, Brigham and Women's Hospital, in a press release.

According to the study, the drop in mortality disappeared when investigators adjusted for the stage of cancer when it was diagnosed. This suggests that the decline in mortality is due to diagnosing cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable, according to the study.


Medicaid expansion linked to lower mortality rates for three major types of cancer [News Release] November 5, 2020; Boston, MA. Accessed November 19, 2020

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