University of Michigan study finds reduced financial barriers to services for younger cancer survivors due to ACA

A recent study from University of Michigan researchers found that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reduced financial barriers for younger cancer survivors to access needed medicines and other services. Researchers found that survivors between the ages of 18 and 64 were less likely to defer care due to price and less likely to be uninsured. 


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The study took data from more than 20,000 survivors who responded to the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They looked at data from 2014 through 2018 to study how key features passed after the 2010 law was enacted affected young survivors. 

Christopher Su, M.D., a clinical fellow in the division of hematology and oncology at Michigan Medicine and the first author of the paper, said:

“When the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act came into play, all the measures of affordability came down for the younger survivors.”

According to the study, younger survivors were less likely to delay care and were more able to pay for medications and care within this period. The study said young cancer survivors have the lowest financial burden they have had in the last 20 years. 

“At the end of the day, the ACA really benefits people who are vulnerable, who are at risk, who, for whatever reason, need to come get medical care a lot, and the medical care that they get is expensive. I think we can say that cancer patients fit this definition.”

The study also found that cancer survivors over the age of 65 did not experience similar changes due to their consistent advantage in the Medicare model. No difference was found in their financial burden post-ACA. 

The study said young cancer survivors were more insured after the passage of the ACA due to the expansion of Medicaid eligibility included within the ACA. This helped survivors who had trouble working while undergoing cancer treatment by allowing them to  get the medications and treatment they need. Su said:

“The younger working population doesn’t have pensions. Most don’t have a rainy day fund stored away for them if they get cancer. They’re still trying to work, still trying to put bread on the table. But the ACA made it easier to sign up for Medicaid, to sign up for a health insurance plan that’s affordable to them, and now they have a better umbrella to fall back on for their health care expenses without jeopardizing their already precarious finances because cancer put them out of work or reduced the time that they could be working. I think it has made a tremendous difference.”

In their research, Su and his team studied to see if Medicaid expansion in general was the cause of the results of the study. They found Medicaid enrollment spikes for young cancer survivors were the same for states with greater Medicaid expansions as for those with less Medicaid expansions. 

“We found that within geographic regions, the numbers are similar, which argues more strongly to the ACA having a very comprehensive impact.”