Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has increased access to mammograms for impoverished older women, a new study suggests.
In those states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), women who didn't have access to this breast cancer screening tool have it now, the study authors said.
"The ACA created a natural experiment in which some states expanded Medicaid and other ones did not," said Dr. Christine Rohde, associate professor of surgery at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.
"This research shows that Medicaid expansion through the ACA does have a significant impact on patients, specifically in terms of insurance coverage and mammography," she explained in a news release from the American College of Surgeons.
The ACA gave states the opportunity to expand Medicaid to cover all adults at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. Starting in 2014, 32 states and Washington, D.C., did so.
For the study, Rohde's team looked at Medicaid expansion between 2011 and 2016, and its effect on breast cancer screening from 2010 to 2018.
Their conclusion: Mammogram rates are higher among 50- to 74-year-old women from low-income households in states that expanded Medicaid compared to those that did not.
Among women making less than $15,000 per year, the rate of mammography in expansion states rose from about 63% in 2010 to 74% in 2018. In non-expansion states, it rose from 68% in 2010 to 69% in 2018.
"These results demonstrate that when given the opportunity, people take advantage and enroll in available insurance, and that this expanded eligibility may more preferentially benefit historically underprivileged groups such as those of lower socioeconomic status," the researchers concluded.
The report was published online recently in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
Learn more about mammograms from the American Cancer Society.