Inadequate access to surgeons: reason for disparate cancer care?

Department of Health Administration and Massey Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1008 Clay Street, Richmond, VA 23298-0203, USA.
Medical care (Impact Factor: 2.94). 08/2009; 47(7):758-64. DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e31819e1f17
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To compare the likelihood of seeing a surgeon between elderly dually eligible non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and colon cancer patients and their Medicare counterparts. Surgery rates between dually eligible and Medicare patients who were evaluated by a surgeon were also assessed.
We used statewide Medicaid and Medicare data merged with the Michigan Tumor Registry to extract a sample of patients with a first primary NSCLC (n = 1100) or colon cancer (n = 2086). The study period was from January 1, 1997 to December 31, 2000. We assessed the likelihood of a surgical evaluation using logistic models that included patient characteristics, tumor stage, and census tracts. Among patients evaluated by a surgeon, we used logistic regression to predict if a resection was performed.
Dually eligible patients were nearly half as likely to be evaluated by a surgeon as Medicare patients (odds ratio [OR] = 0.49; 95% confidence interval = 0.32, 0.77 and odds ratio = 0.59; 95% confidence interval = 0.41, 0.86 for NSCLC and colon cancer patients, respectively). Among patients who were evaluated by a surgeon, the likelihood of resection was not statistically significantly different between dually eligible and Medicare patients.
This study suggests that dually eligible patients, in spite of having Medicaid insurance, are less likely to be evaluated by a surgeon relative to their Medicare counterparts. Policies and interventions aimed toward increasing access to specialists and complete diagnostic work-ups (eg, colonoscopy, bronchoscopy) are needed.

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