Health Reform Will Provide Cancer Screening Services to Millions of Newly-Insured Women - but National Low-Income Screening Program Still 'Essential'

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(ChemotherapyAdvisor)–If the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) is fully implemented, millions of women with low incomes will gain access to potentially life-saving cervical and breast cancer screening services, according to an analysis published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The ACA requires that certain cancer screening services such as mammograms and Pap tests be provided at insurers' expense, to encourage early detection and treatment of malignancies. But the most vulnerable women from low-income areas would continue to benefit importantly from the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), the authors cautioned.

“Implementation of the ACA would increase insurance coverage and access to cancer screening for millions of women, but the NBCCEDP will remain essential for the millions who will remain uninsured,” reported Alice R. Levy, PhD, MPP, of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, in Washington, DC, and coauthors.

“Approximately 6.8 million low-income women would gain health insurance, potentially increasing the annual demand for cancer screenings initially by about 500,000 mammograms and 1.3 million Papanicolaou tests,” the authors reported.

The researchers built a model using data on expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income families and state health insurance expansion experiences in Massachusetts, and data from the US Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey, to estimate how many of the women newly insured under the ACA would undergo mammograms or Pap tests.

“Despite a 60% decrease in the number of low-income uninsured women (resulting from ACA implementation), the NBCCEDP would still serve fewer than one-third of the estimated number of women eligible for services,” they noted. “The NBCCEDP-eligible population would comprise a larger number of women with language and literacy-related barriers to care.”

An estimated 40,000 US women die each year of breast cancer, and an estimated 4,000 a year die of cervical cancer.

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