Studies Link Cancer Patients' Survival Time to Insurance Status

Posted by Cam McClellan Teems

September 26, 2016 at 10:03 AM



Insurance covers many aspects of medical care – from providing coordinated transportation for patients to procedures to medication – and the numbers show that these benefits have a profound impact on cancer survivorship. Two recent studies published in the August issue of Cancer have found that people with cancer who are privately insured have better chances of survival and less chance of the cancer metastasizing (spreading to other locations) than those who were either uninsured or covered by Medicaid. 

The studies addressed different types of cancer. One of the studies focused on brain tumors, analyzing data from 13,665 adult patients diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme between 2007 and 2012. The other study, focusing on testicular cancer, looked at data from 10,211 patients diagnosed between 2007 and 2011.

It’s important to remember that glioblastoma multiforme is far more deadly, with a five-year survival rating of less than five percent compared to testicular cancer’s 95% survival rate in the same window. Further, testicular cancer responds far better to chemotherapy than glioblastoma multiforme, even after it has metastasized. Other findings:

  • Privately insured patients fared better in terms of survival than all other patients, either uninsured or covered by Medicaid.
  • In the testicular cancer study, those patients who were uninsured were at a 26% higher risk for metastatic disease than privately insured patients, with Medicaid covered patients at a 62% higher risk.
  • In the brain cancer study, uninsured patients were at 14% higher risk of shorter survival periods after diagnosis and Medicaid patients at 10% higher risk, when compared with privately insured patients. Further, privately insured patients were more likely to have smaller tumors at the time of diagnosis due to earlier screening.

Patients with Medicaid fared far worse across the board than the other groups reviewed in the study. However, it should be noted that many Medicaid patients with cancer are only enrolled after they are diagnosed, so financial support for earlier screening to detect cancer may not have been in place. Therefore, the downstream effects of not being screened early on are at play in the population studied. Access to early screening is a common problem among the underinsured, especially for men; the more people that have access to screening, the more survivors there will be.

Quality care coordination is about helping patients navigate the tricky pathways of treatment and ensuring that care teams do everything possible to help provide successful treatments. Educating patients about the health and financial benefits of medical insurance is vital to improving their overall quality of care and helping them minimize and prevent further health risks, as well as increasing survivorship.

The data used was collected from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program. SEER tracks cancer incidence and survival in the United States.  See your state’s data here:

Topics: survivorship, oncology, Cancer Management, Navigation & Care Coordination, Health Insurance

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