Cancer Patient Study: Disparity Between Medicare and Private Insurance

April 26, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A provocative study was released by researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center this week, raising the alarm about disparities in medical treatment offered to patients with Medicare as their primary payer, compared to those with private insurance. Dr. Robert G. Uzzo, surgery chairman with Chase, discovered that patients with kidney cancer were more likely to have the entire kidney surgically removed, a less expensive operation than that of partial nephrectomy, which just removes the cancerous portion, preserving organ function.

Dr. Uzzo was surprised at the findings, proving that the type of insurance a patient carries has a significant impact on the quality of care received. Dr. Uzzo believes the results of his study have great significance for any future discussions of developing a national health insurance program saying, “…it will be important to keep in mind that who pays for the care can affect the quality of care received.”

The study analyzed inpatient discharge data covering 42,000 adult patients, over a six-year period in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. After reviewing the hospital data, the results clearly showed patients over 65 with Medicare coverage, were significantly less likely to undergo kidney-sparing surgery for treatment of kidney cancer, than patients with private insurance.

Although this study just evaluated patients with kidney cancer and the surgical treatment they received, Dr. Uzzo believes disparities in treatment exist all across the board, affecting both access to health care and the type of treatment received.

This disturbing study certainly raises implications that need to be addressed when reforming U.S. healthcare.

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