Increase in Early-Stage Cancer Diagnoses Tied to ACA’s Medicaid Expansion, Pitt Study Finds

A study published in American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that expansion of the Affordable Care Act resulted in an increase in early-stage cancer diagnoses and a decrease in late-stage cancer rates for patients.

Early-stage cancer diagnoses increased while late-stage cancer rates decreased as a result of an expansion of health care coverage via the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

The positive effects of the ACA expansion on early cancer diagnoses were reported by a group of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The researchers suggested that the increase in early-stage cancer diagnoses for patients in areas where the state expanded the ACA is due to patients who were previously uncovered by the ACA are now covered and can access quality health care.

“We used cancer diagnosis rates as a marker of access to care,” lead author Lauren Lin, BS, a medical student at Pitt School of Medicine, said in a press release. “An increase in early-stage cancer diagnoses means that people who didn’t have health care before the Medicaid expansion got a chance to see a primary care physician and get screened.”

The researchers implemented data collection from various cancer registries to track cancer diagnoses before and after the ACA expansion across different states.

The results showed an immediate increase in early-stage cancer diagnoses within the first year of ACA expansion. More, the data saw that there was a slight decrease in late-stage cancer diagnoses 3 years after the ACA expansion.

“Our study adds to the literature demonstrating the positive health effects of Medicaid expansion,” senior author Coleman Drake, PhD, assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management, said in a press release. “This is another case where, depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling, the beneficial effects of preventive care provided by Medicaid expansion could disappear.”

As the United States Supreme Court hears arguments to decide the future of the ACA, the researchers suggest that this data makes a strong argument against striking down the law, as removing the law would negatively impact the nation’s health.

The researchers expect to continue studying the long-term impact of health care reforms, both positive and negative.

“It is important to remember that while the ACA was passed 10 years ago, the key provisions weren’t implemented until 2014,” co-author Lindsay Sabik, PhD, associate professor of health policy and management at Pitt Public Health, said in a press release. “Because we often don’t see the effects immediately, it’s important for us to keep studying the long-term consequences of health care reform.”


Increase in Early-Stage Cancer Diagnoses Tied to ACA’s Medicaid Expansion, Pitt Study Finds [news release]. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Published November 12, 2020. Accessed November 18, 2020.