For low-income women, living in a state that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act means you’re more likely to get a mammogram for breast cancer screening.
According to new research, low-income women living in states that expanded Medicaid by 2011 were 25% more likely to be screened for breast cancer that non-expansion states. Compare that to 2008, when low-income women in both sets of states had similar odds to being screened. Researchers expect if they performed the analysis with 2015 date, the differences would be even greater.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states had the option of expanding Medicaid to cover low-income individuals living at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. So far, thirty states plus the District of Columbia have opted to expand Medicaid coverage.
The dramatic difference in mammogram screening rates in the Medicaid expansion states occurred at a time when mammography rates have been declining in general. Updated recommendations from the US Preventative Services Task Force in 2009 have led to an overdecline in breast cancer screening rates.
The real question that hasn’t yet been answered? Whether expanded coverage and more mammograms actually translates into better health outcomes for breast cancer. In truth, many of the new screening recommendations from both the US Preventative Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society reflect that earlier and more frequent screening may not actually be beneficial for women of average risk, and may subject them to unnecessary additional procedures.