Childhood cancer research

September 14th, 2017

Sept. 14, 2017 — Childhood cancer patients insured by Medicaid or private health insurance live longer than those without, according to newly published research by Rohit Ojha, DrPH, director of the Center for Outcomes Research at JPS, and Kimberly Johnson, MPH, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis.

Rohit Ojha, DrPH

Rohit Ojha, DrPH, director of the Center for Outcomes Research

The study, published in the scientific journal Cancer and circulated widely on medical news web sites, fills a gap in existing research on the relationship between insurance status and cancer mortality. Previous research looked exclusively at adult patients and included reports of lower survival for Medicaid cancer patients. “Our purpose was to determine if insurance status has an effect on childhood survival of cancer,” Ojha told CBS News Radio correspondent Bill Rehkopf.

Ojha’s research, which looked at five-year survival rates for children younger than 15, found almost no difference between Medicaid and private insurance in children. “We were surprised to find a .62 month difference,” suggesting that young cancer patients covered by private insurance lived about two weeks longer than those with Medicaid. In terms of providing access to treatment, “Medicaid appears to be fairly reasonable,” Ojha said.

The survival gap grew wider between children with health coverage and those without any form of insurance. Those without insurance or Medicaid died 1.3 months sooner.

The study did not attempt to explain why, but one explanation could be that children with insurance are diagnosed earlier, when their cancer is more easily treatable than advanced disease.

The study, “The effect of health insurance on childhood cancer survival in the United States,” examined national data from 2007 to 2009 in the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registry. 

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