Study: Higher Medicaid reimbursement leads to more cancer screenings

When Medicaid programs provide higher reimbursements for doctors' office visits, Medicaid members are more likely to receive cancer screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, according to a study published in the journal, Cancer.

That finding likely means there are too many barriers preventing Medicaid beneficiaries from seeing doctors. The researchers said that raising reimbursement rates for office visits might give Medicaid beneficiaries more access to primary care, thereby increasing the chance that they will receive appropriate cancer screening tests.

Because Medicaid recipients are generally less likely to undergo cancer screenings than consumers with private insurance, they're often diagnosed with cancer at already advanced stages, which drives up costs and reduces the effectiveness of treatment.

And since overall costs for treating cancer top $100 billion annually, insurers like WellPoint are starting to change how they pay for cancer care, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Medicaid programs might benefit from implementing similar cancer approaches.

"Few studies have examined how state-specific differences in Medicaid policies might affect use of preventive care services, particularly for early detection of cancer," Michael Halpern, one of the authors of the study and a senior fellow with RTI International, said in a statement.

Interestingly, the study also found that increasing reimbursement rates for the actual cancer screening tests, including colonoscopy, mammography and Pap tests, won't likely boost Medicaid members' use of these procedures.

"Due to multiple factors, including healthcare reform and decreased state budgets, many states are changing their Medicaid policies, including how much healthcare providers are paid and who is allowed to enroll," Halpern said. "Our findings can help state healthcare decision makers and policy leaders to develop new Medicaid policies that aid low income individuals in receiving recommended cancer screenings."

To learn more:
- here's the statement and study