Study shows boost in access to breast and cancer screens
A study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) indicates that full implementation of the Affordable Care Act would expand health insurance coverage for more low-income women, enabling more than a million women to obtain potentially life-saving screening for breast and cervical cancer. The study, "Health Care Reform and Women's Insurance Coverage for Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening," was published in a recent issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
In the past, many low income women without insurance could not afford screening tests for breast and cervical cancer such as mammograms or Pap tests. Such tests often identify cancer at an early, more treatable stage-before a tumor has spread and turned deadly. Right now, about 40,000 women per year die of breast cancer and another 4,000 die of cervical cancer.
The researchers created a model, based on results from Massachusetts' successful health reform initiative, to estimate the number of low-income women in every state who would gain insurance coverage if federal health reform is fully implemented. They estimated that 6.8 million low-income women 18-64 would gain health insurance under health reform. Based on findings from a recent experiment of expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income adults, they estimated that about 500,000 more women a year would be able to get mammograms to check for breast cancer and 1.3 million more women could get Pap tests to check for cervical cancer.
"The Affordable Care Act could lead to major gains in screening and early detection of breast and cervical cancer," said Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, a professor of health policy and Director of the Center for Health Policy Research at SPHHS who led the study. "Those gains could result in faster treatment and better outcomes for women across the nation," he said adding that the improvements come after a decade in which women's cancer screening rates have remained stagnant.