NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Private Insurance, Better Prostate Surgery Outcome?

October 4, 2011

American men who have surgery for prostate cancer seem to fare better if they have private insurance rather than public coverage through Medicare or Medicaid.  Researchers determined that among more than 61,000 men who had their prostates removed to treat cancer, those with private insurance had fewer complications from surgery and were less likely to die in the hospital, says Fox News.

  • While 13 percent of Medicare- and Medicaid-covered men had complications from their surgery, the figure was only 10 percent for men with private insurance.
  • Similarly, almost 8 percent of Medicare-covered and 11 percent of Medicaid-covered men had to receive a blood transfusion, compared with just over 5 percent of men with private insurance.
  • In the study that produced these results, 67 percent of the 61,000 men were privately insured, about 31 percent were on Medicare, and just under 2 percent were on Medicaid.

The implications for this kind of study are profound, especially in the context of the sweeping health care reforms that will soon be completely implemented.  Because researchers did their best to control for obvious factors such as age, race, the men's overall health and some characteristics of the hospitals, the cause of the differential unearthed in this study remains hidden.  Some argue that a combination of over diagnosis (prostate cancer can be relatively benign with more than half of men diagnosed in 2009 receiving designations of "low-risk") and suboptimal surgery care has brought about the disparity.  Thus far, however, researchers remain baffled.

Source: "Private Insurance, Better Prostate Surgery Outcome?" Fox News, September 22, 2011.

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