Studies shed light on link between insurance status, death risk

Medicaid on paper and a stethoscope

Having private insurance is associated with significant differences in healthcare outcomes for certain types of patients compared with their uninsured or Medicaid-insured counterparts.

One study, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found that switching from private to public insurance after getting a heart transplant is associated with heightened mortality risk compared to those with continuous private coverage. 

"It was surprising that insurance status changes over a short period of time were indeed associated with heart transplantation outcomes," lead author Dmitry Tumin, of Ohio State University, told Fox News.

Another study, published in the journal Cancer, examined the correlation of insurance status on the survival of adults with an aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme. Researchers found progressive improvement in survival rates for people with non-Medicaid insurance who were diagnosed between 2007 and 2011. The researchers did not find a comparable decreased mortality risk for brain cancer patients who were uninsured or insured only by Medicaid.

It made sense that privately insured brain cancer patients would have better outcomes than the uninsured, “but we didn’t expect that Medicaid patients would do significantly worse than [privately insured] patients,” Wuyang Yang, M.D. and research fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told Kaiser Health News.

An additional study published by the journal Cancer investigated the link between cancer outcomes and insurance status for men ages 26 to 34, a demographic representing the greatest share of the uninsured population that also experiences the highest incidence of testicular cancers. Men without insurance or with Medicaid were more likely to die of their disease compared with privately insured men, the researchers found.

Based on the study methods, the researchers can only conclude an association of insurance status and mortality risk, not a direct causal link, both cancer studies note.