As the nation’s public health insurance program for children and adults with low incomes, seniors, people with disabilities and pregnant women, Medicaid is a lifeline for many of our most vulnerable citizens, including cancer patients.
Since 2016, 38 states have expanded eligibility for the joint state and federal program to include individuals who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty limit (FPL) - that’s $18,754 for an individual or just over $38,000 for a family of four. But 12 states have yet to expand the program, leaving nearly 2.2 million adults in a “coverage gap” without a viable path to affordable, quality health insurance. Almost 60% of people within the coverage gap are people of color, making Medicaid expansion more than just a health issue—but a racial inequity, too.
The patient impact
The data is clear: greater access to Medicaid is associated with better health outcomes—both before and after diagnosis.
Research suggests that states that expanded Medicaid experienced a 6.4% increase in early detection of cancer compared to pre-expansion levels. In Kentucky, research links Medicaid expansion both to earlier cancer detection and improved survival rates.
After diagnosis, patient access to Medicaid is associated with:
- Making treatment more affordable, meaning that fewer people are struggling to pay their medical bills
- Reducing the likelihood of people forgoing treatment because of the cost
- Reducing racial and ethnic disparities in cancer treatment
- Lower mortality rates in cancer patients
Cancer patients rely on health insurance to help cover the often-costly treatments that can mean the difference between life and death. And as our country learns to live with the devastating impacts of COVID-19—including significant job loss—ensuring affordable health coverage for millions of Americans who lost jobs through no fault of their own is paramount.
Coverage is only useful for patients if it is affordable and easy enough for them to access it. That’s why it’s critical that all states expand Medicaid immediately—and that they do so without adopting policies that further reduce access to care, like tiered benefits, block grants, restrictions based on employment status, eligibility lockouts or premium requirements.