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Lack of Health Insurance a Major Barrier to Cancer Care

Uninsured and underinsured in United States receive less preventive care and have worse outcomes

FRIDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Lack of adequate health insurance prevents significant segments of the U.S. population from benefiting from advances in prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer, according to an extensive review published in the January/February issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey and the National Cancer Data Base and reviewed numerous studies on access to health care and health insurance. In addition to an overview of health care systems in the United States, the article provides demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of those insured, not insured or underinsured, as well as estimates of economic burdens of health care for individuals and families. Data are also presented on the associations between health insurance status and screening, stage at diagnosis, and survival of breast and colorectal cancer.

The report finds that the probability of being uninsured varies inversely to income, but increased from 2001 to 2005 at all income levels. Blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups are much more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites. Individuals without adequate health insurance are less likely to have preventive care or adequate management of chronic conditions, and have lower rates of screening for cervical, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.

"There is substantial evidence that lack of adequate health insurance coverage is associated with less access to care and poorer outcomes for cancer patients," the authors conclude.

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