Individuals from disadvantaged communities are among the millions of uninsured Americans gaining insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The extent to which health insurance can mitigate the effects of the social determinants of health on cancer care is unknown.METHODS:
This study linked the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries to US Census data to study patients diagnosed with the 4 leading causes of cancer deaths between 2007 and 2011. A county-level social determinant score was developed with 5 measures of wealth, education, and employment. Patients were stratified into quintiles, with the lowest quintile representing the most disadvantaged communities. Logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate associations and cancer-specific survival.RESULTS:
A total of 364,507 patients aged 18 to 64 years were identified (134,105 with breast cancer, 106,914 with prostate cancer, 62,606 with lung cancer, and 60,882 with colorectal cancer). Overall, patients from the most disadvantaged communities (median household income, $42,885; patients below the poverty level, 22%; patients completing college, 17%) were more likely to present with distant disease (odds ratio, 1.6; P < .001) and were less likely to receive cancer-directed surgery (odds ratio, 0.8; P < .001) than the least disadvantaged communities (median income, $78,249; patients below the poverty level, 9%; patients completing college, 42%). The differences persisted across quintiles regardless of the insurance status. The effect of having insurance on cancer-specific survival was more pronounced in disadvantaged communities (relative benefit at 3 years, 40% vs 31%). However, it did not fully mitigate the effect of social determinants on mortality (hazard ratio, 0.75 vs 0.68; P < .001).CONCLUSIONS:
Cancer patients from disadvantaged communities benefit most from health insurance, and there is a reduction in disparities in outcome. However, the gap produced by social determinants of health cannot be bridged by insurance alone.
Individuals from disadvantaged communities are among the millions of uninsured Americans gaining insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This study examines whether health insurance and better access to care can mitigate the effects of the social determinants of health on cancer care for the leading 4 causes of cancer deaths in the United States.