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Study Finds Medicaid Expansion Improved Colon Cancer Rates in Appalachian Kentucky

A new study has found that Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act led to a profound impact on diagnosis and survival rates of colorectal cancer in parts of Appalachia.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky looked at the impact of Medicaid expansion and colon cancer in Kentuckians. They found that after Medicaid expansion, there was a substantial increase in the number of Medicaid patients who received colon cancer screening. The most prominent increase, though, was in the Appalachian part of the state, where 43 percent more patients were screened after expansion than before.

The increase in screening also meant an increase in early-stage diagnosis of the disease, when colon cancer is more easily treated, and a 27 percent decrease in risk of death.

Kentucky and West Virginia both first expanded Medicaid in January of 2014, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Kentucky has the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the country – and West Virginia has the third highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.

Copyright 2019 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Kara Leigh Lofton is the Appalachia Health News Coordinator at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Previously Kara was a freelance reporter for WMRA, an affiliate of NPR serving the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville in Virginia. There she produced 70 radio reports in her first year of reporting, most often on health or environmental topics. One of her reports, “Trauma Workers Find Solace in a Pause That Honors Life After a Death,” circulated nationally after proving to be an all-time favorite among WMRA’s audience.