Young Cancer Patients Gained Coverage from the Affordable Care Act

Faculty; Public Health

A provision of the Affordable Care Act has increased health insurance coverage in young-adult cancer patients, but its effects on cancer diagnosis and survival are less clear, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Cancer is diagnosed in 21,000 adults aged 20-29 each year in the U.S., with more than 2,300 deaths annually. Young adult cancer survival improvement has lagged behind other age groups in recent decades, which may be due in part to a lower percentage of young adults with insurance coverage. 

Researchers studied data from 129,000 cancer patients aged 19-25 years from 2010 to 2014. The information was gathered from two national databases and covered a period after September 23, 2010, the effective date of a provision of the Affordable Care Act that required insurers to maintain coverage for dependents until age 26.

The results provided strong evidence that the provision had increased insurance coverage in patients aged 19-25 at diagnosis or initial treatment.  Less apparent were improvements in diagnosis and survivorship, with the strongest evidence for a positive impact on patients with colorectal cancer.

“Further research should continue to monitor the impact of insurance coverage on cancer stage diagnosis and survival in young adults with cancer,” wrote the study’s senior author, Dr. Kimberly Johnson, associate professor at the Brown School.

The study was published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.