In a recent study, unemployed individuals in the US were less likely to have health insurance and be up to date on getting recommended cancer screening tests. Analyses published in the journal CANCER revealed that their lack of health insurance coverage completely accounted for their lower screening rates.
During the COVID pandemic, unemployment rates in the United States have risen to levels not seen since the Great Depression. To examine associations between unemployment, health insurance, and cancer screening, Stacey Fedewa, PhD, of the American Cancer Society, and her colleagues analysed information from adults under age 65 years who responded to a nationally representative annual survey of the general population.
Unemployed adults were four times more likely to lack insurance than employed adults (41.4% vs 10.0%). A lower proportion of unemployed adults had received up-to-date cervical (78.5% vs 86.2%), breast (67.8% vs 77.5%), colorectal (41.9% vs 48.5%), and prostate (25.4% vs 36.4%) cancer screening. These differences were eliminated after accounting for health insurance coverage.
“People who were unemployed at the time of the survey were less likely to have a recent cancer screening test and they were also less likely to be up-to-date with their cancer screenings over the long term. This suggests that being unemployed at a single point in time may hinder both recent and potentially longer-term screening practices,” said Dr. Fedewa. This can increase a person’s risk of being diagnosed with late-stage cancer, which is more difficult to treat than cancer that is detected at an early stage.
“Our finding that insurance coverage fully accounted for unemployed adults’ lower cancer screening utilisation is potentially good news, because it’s modifiable,” Dr Fedewa added. “When people are unemployed and have health insurance, they have screening rates that are similar to employed adults.”
The findings highlight insurance coverage’s importance in access to recommended cancer screening tests and indicate that insurance needs to be extended to all people, regardless of their employment status.