Study: Medicare Access Improves Cancer Outcomes in Women

Having access to Medicare coverage may improve the chances of detecting and surviving cancer, especially for women, according to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Published Jan. 28, 2020

Having access to Medicare can improve outcomes for female cancer patients, according to a study headed up by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

The results of the study, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, highlighted the positive impact of quality health insurance such as Medicare on cancer detection and survival, especially for women.1

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Medicare beneficiaries have higher rates of cancer detection and lower cancer mortality

According to the study, the detection rate of breast, colorectal and lung cancer increased significantly at age 65, which is the qualifying age for Medicare. The study also showed a decreasing cancer mortality rate for women beginning at age 65 when compared to those just two years younger and not yet eligible for Medicare.

The cancer mortality rate did not show any significant change for men related to Medicare eligibility. 

The results were especially significant for African-American women, who saw an even larger increase in detection as well as a larger drop in cancer mortality beginning at age 65. Once again, African-American men did not show any significant change. 

The results were compared to cancer detection rates in Canada, where residents of any age have access to public health insurance. What the researchers found was that cancer mortality was nearly identical in both countries before the age of 65, but the decrease in cancer mortality rates for people over age 65 was only present in the United States. 

Data included individuals between the ages of 59 and 71 and was taken from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program from 2001 to 2015. 

Does Medicare cover cancer treatments?

Medicare provides coverage for a number of cancer screenings and tests such as mammograms and colonoscopies and screenings for prostate, cervical, vaginal and lung cancer.  

Cancer treatments that can be covered by Medicare include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, clinical research studies, breast prostheses, durable medical equipment, skilled nursing facility care, hospital stays and hospice care, depending on a beneficiaries individual circumstances.

Prescription drugs used to treat cancer may be covered by many Medicare Part D prescription drug plans or a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans that include prescription drug coverage.

You may be able to find Medicare plans in your area that offer prescription drug coverage and coverage for cancer treatments. You can call to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you compare Medicare plans available where you live. Or you can compare plans online, with no obligation to enroll.

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About the author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

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