NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Does Medicare Coverage Improve Cancer Detection and Mortality Outcomes?

Rebecca Mary Myerson, Reginald Tucker-Seeley, Dana Goldman, Darius N. Lakdawalla

NBER Working Paper No. 26292
Issued in September 2019, Revised in November 2019
NBER Program(s):Program on the Economics of Aging, Health Care Program, Health Economics Program

Medicare is a large government health insurance program in the United States which covers about 60 million people. This paper analyzes the effects of Medicare insurance on health for a group of people in urgent need of medical care: people with cancer. We used a regression discontinuity design to assess impacts of near-universal Medicare insurance at age 65 on cancer detection and outcomes, using population-based cancer registries and vital statistics data. Our analysis focused on the three tumor sites for which screening is recommended both before and after age 65: breast, colorectal, and lung cancer. At age 65, cancer detection increased by 72 per 100,000 population among women and 33 per 100,000 population among men; cancer mortality also decreased by 9 per 100,000 population for women but did not significantly change for men. In a placebo check, we found no comparable changes at age 65 in Canada. This study provides the first evidence to our knowledge that near-universal access to Medicare at age 65 is associated with improvements in population-level cancer mortality and provides new evidence on the differences in the impact of health insurance by gender.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26292

 
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