Medicaid expansion results in more Kentuckians obtaining preventative breast cancer screenings

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The cost of more than 8,500 breast cancer screenings was covered by the state’s Medicaid expansion during the second quarter of this year. This accounted for 87 percent of the breast cancer screenings covered by Medicaid in that quarter. Similarly, Medicaid expansion has enabled more dental, diabetes, Hepatitis C, and colorectal cancer screenings for low-income Kentuckians, according to a report released today by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

“One of the benefits of getting more people insured is that they take advantage of the preventive services that can lead to improved health and lower health care costs in the long run,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “That positive trend is what we’re seeing in Kentucky in terms of breast and colorectal cancer screenings, preventive dental services and diabetes and Hepatitis C screenings for Kentuckians with low incomes.”

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The report also confirmed the continuation of a steady increase in the number of substance abuse treatment services covered by both traditional and expansion Medicaid, from 5,675 services during the first quarter of 2015, to 15,234 services during the second quarter of 2016 (see other quarterly reports here). More than 56,600 substance abuse treatment services have been covered by Medicaid in those 18 months.

“Substance abuse is one of the most  critical health and safety issues facing Kentuckians,” Chandler said. “Overdose deaths continue to climb, and addiction exacts a terrible emotional, financial and physical toll on families.”

The findings are included in the latest report from an ongoing study of the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Kentucky, commissioned by the Foundation in 2015. According to the study,  8,597 of the breast cancer screenings in the second quarter of 2016 were conducted for patients who qualified for Medicaid under the expanded eligibility enacted by Kentucky in 2013. The other 1,251 screenings were for patients who qualified under traditional Medicaid edibility. A similar ratio was found in the 2nd quarter of 2015, during which Medicaid expansion covered 9,003, or 88 percent, of the 10,191 breast cancer screenings (see second quarter 2015 snapshot here).

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 123 of every 100,000 Kentucky women develop or die from breast cancer each year.

“Screenings for breast cancer among those living on lower incomes can be particularly important because, statistically, low-income women have a higher risk of not being diagnosed until the later stages of breast cancer,” Chandler said. “If doctors can catch the cancer early with regular mammograms so patients can get treatment at the earlier stages, we’re talking about saving lives while also reducing long-term costs.”

The report also lists the number of other preventive health screenings covered by both traditional and expansion Medicaid during the quarter:   colorectal cancer (6,289, of which 5,555 were Medicaid expansion patients), Hepatitis C (5,820, including 3,754 expansion), diabetes (4,589, including 3,641 expansion), and dental (43,463, including 32,968 expansion).

According to an earlier report from the same ongoing study, when surveyed this past spring, 28 percent of Kentucky adults younger than 65 and eligible for Medicaid had not seen a dentist in the past five or more years (see 2016 Semi-Annual report, p. 36).

“Oral health screenings play a critical role in improving general health outcomes,” said Laura Hancock Jones, chair of the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition and a member of the Foundation’s Community Advisory Committee.  “Identifying the risk of cavities and addressing the chronic disease process early can help to prevent more costly procedures required when oral disease progresses.  In my experience, Medicaid expansion patients first used their plans at the dentist to address dental neglect in hopes of eliminating pain and getting prepared for the workforce.  It is very difficult to concentrate in school or at work with a toothache.”

Medicaid also covered 6,620 newborn births, 1,769 of which were expansion patients, during the second quarter this year.

A copy of the report, the 6th quarterly snapshot of the Study of the Impact of the ACA Implementation in Kentucky, is available here.

From Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

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