Medicaid Expansion May Reduce Cancer Rates and Save the Lives of African American Men

The findings of a study published in PLOS ONE show that expanding Medicaid in North Carolina could attenuate the burden of colon cancer and potentially save the lives of thousands of African American males.

To conduct this study, researchers created a population model that simulated all the African American and white men in North Carolina, based on county demographics. The model, comprised more than 338,000 Black men and 1,496,000 white men, assigned a probability of colon cancer screening, based on real world statistics related to income, race and neighborhood data.

They then ran the model under several different scenarios. One, in which North Carolina set up a health insurance exchange but did not expand Medicaid, mimicked what actually happened. And the rates of sickness and death caused by colon cancer in that scenario match what has actually happened in North Carolina in recent years, giving the researchers confidence the model is accurate.

“And we saw that if we had done that, we would have saved hundreds of Black male lives–and increased cancer screening among both Black and white men,” said Wizdom Powell, director of the UConn Health Disparities Institute in a press release.

“It was enlightening to see the impact on disparities,” Frerichs says. And she points out how much the state would gain, for little cost. Initially, by expanding Medicaid the state of North Carolina would pay a couple dollars more for every African American man in 2018, but it would save $5.1 million in cumulative cost savings by 2044. And the state would save $9.6 million in cumulative savings for white males.