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The ACA Makes Cancer Screenings Available To Millions Who Could Never Afford It

When people don’t have to worry about the cost of every interaction with the health care system, it makes people healthier.

The ACA Makes Cancer Screenings Available To Millions Who Could Never Afford It
[Illustration: studiodr/iStock]

The Affordable Care Act has led, among its many other benefits, to increased diagnoses of early stage cancer in seniors. Because it makes preventative care, including cancer screening, affordable, the ACA can save people who would otherwise die by getting them treatment early enough.

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The study, from the University of Virginia, looked at colorectal cancer in U.S. seniors, from 2011-2013. It estimates that 8,400 early diagnoses were made that wouldn’t have been made without ACA. That’s an 8% increase in detection. Interestingly, there was no difference in the number of breast cancers detected. This is thought to be because the relative savings in breast cancer screening is smaller than that for colorectal cancers, and that the word is already out about the importance of breast cancer screenings, whereas people only learn bout the need for a colonoscopy when they visit a doctor.

The big difference made by the ACA here is that Medicare now pays for the entire cost of routine screening mammograms and initial screening colonoscopies. Previously, a patient would have to pay up to 20% of the cost of these screenings. Medicare patients also get one free “wellness visit” per year, and this annual checkup leads to early diagnosis of many problems.

[Photo: Svisio/iStock]

Also, doctors were–up until 2015–given a bonus if at least 60% of their billings came from primary care. That is, they were financially encouraged to discuss screenings and other preventative possibilities with patients.

“Patients who have a routine primary care visit are much more likely to have a colonoscopy than patients who do not have such a visit,” write the authors, Brett Lissenden and Nengliang Yao.

All this together led to more people engaging with health care professionals. Instead of shying away from anything deemed non-essential because of the cost, patients could work with their doctors to learn about the preventative options available to them.

It should be fairly obvious that charging patients a fortune for every contact they have with a doctor will end with most people never visiting a doctor unless there’s an emergency. The ACA hasn’t just made care more affordable for lower-income people, it’s made it possible for them to work with health care professionals in an everyday, preventative manner, like people do in countries with universal health care. That not only leads to healthier and happier people, it also saves lives, and eventually ends up cheaper for the insurance providers because problems can be caught early, and death with quickly.

ACA, then, is a win for everyone, which makes Trump’s mission to abolish it all the more inexplicable. My guess is that he hates it because it’s often called “Obamacare.” Perhaps if we promised to rename it “Trumpcare,” then his ego would decide not to condemn thousands or millions of Americans to sickness and death?

About the author

Previously found writing at Wired.com, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter.

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