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More Cancer Patients Got Palliative Care After Obamacare

THURSDAY, July 6, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- brought an unexpected benefit: increases in how many patients got palliative care.

“Our findings are encouraging, especially with growing evidence of the important benefits of palliative care for patients with cancer,” said lead study author Dr. Xuesong Han, scientific director of health services research at the American Cancer Society (ACS). “It’s imperative to know how to target ways to increase access to these services, as use, overall, still remains low in the U.S.”

Where a patient lives in the United States may determine their use of palliative care, according to the study.

The researchers used data from the National Cancer Database, a national hospital-based cancer registry jointly sponsored by the American College of Surgeons and the ACS.

For this study, they included data from people ages 18 to 64 who were newly diagnosed with stage 4 cancers between 2010 and 2019.

The number of eligible patients who received palliative care increased from 17% prior to Medicaid expansion to 18.9% after expansion in states that expanded Medicaid. It increased from 15.7% to 16.7% in non-expansion states.

Palliative care associated with Medicaid expansion was largest for patients with advanced pancreatic, colon, lung and oral cavity and pharynx cancers, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“These study results suggest that the expansion of Medicaid coverage may increase palliative care use,” Han said in an ACS news release. “They also point to a potentially widening geographic disparity in receipt of guideline-recommended palliative care between states with different health policies regarding income-based Medicaid eligibility requirements.”

Study findings were published July 5 in the journal Health Affairs.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on palliative care.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, June 30, 2023

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