When governments formulate health care programs, the true measure of their success can be determined only by the number of people benefitted by them. Offering such an outlook for US healthcare, a new study has stated that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion appears to have had positive effects on the rates of early cancer diagnosis.

According to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, the federal statute that was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, the health insurance expansions led to an increase in the rates of early-stage cancer diagnoses, while there has been a reduction in the rates of late-stage cancer.

Doctor and patient
Doctor and patient (Representational Picture) PxHere

"We used cancer diagnosis rates as a marker of access to care. 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," said Lauren Lin, lead author of the study, in a statement.

Helping Cancer Patients

Enacted by the 111th United States Congress (that was held between January 2009-January 2011), it was signed into an act by President Obama on 23 March 2010 and is often called the 'Obamacare'. Several key provisions came into effect in 2014. The merits and demerits of the act have been debated over for nearly a decade. However, the current study offers evidence that that act has been able to have some of the desired results.

For the study, the authors utilized data gathered from cancer registries to monitor cancer diagnoses before and after Medicaid expansion (2010–2016) in 732 counties across several states. They observed an instant rise in early-stage cancer diagnoses only within a year of implementation of ACA expansion. A modest decrease in late-stage cancer diagnoses after three years was also noted. A detectable effect of the expansion on the total diagnoses was not found.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama Barack Obama Presidential Library/obamalibrary.gov

"It is important to remember that while the ACA was passed 10 years ago, the key provisions weren't implemented until 2014. 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," highlighted Dr. Lindsay Sabik, co-author of the study.

Need to Uphold ACA

Obamacare is said to provide nearly 20 million Americans with several essential health benefits, insurance protection, and preventive health services such as vaccinations at zero cost, among others. However, the future of the ACA may potentially be in jeopardy; thanks to a lawsuit supported by the Trump administration that is being heard in the US Supreme Court currently.

US Supreme Court
Supreme Court Building, USA Pixabay

Fortunately, the Supreme Court, during the course of oral arguments on 11 November 2020, suggested that it may not strike the ACA as sought by the outgoing Trump administration. The study also made a solid case for Obamacare to be upheld.

"Our study adds to the literature demonstrating the positive health effects of Medicaid expansion. This is another case where, depending on the Supreme Court's ruling, the beneficial effects of preventive care provided by Medicaid expansion could disappear," said Dr. Coleman Drake, senior author of the study.