For uninsured American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AIAN) diagnosed with cancer, prompt enrollment in Medicaid may speed access to treatment and improve survival. We hypothesized that AIANs who were eligible for the Indian Health Service Care System (IHSCS) at cancer diagnosis may be enrolled in Medicaid sooner than other AIANs.
Using Washington, Oregon, and California State Cancer Registries, we identified AIANs with a primary diagnosis of lung, breast, colorectal, cervical, ovarian, stomach, or prostate cancer between 2001 and 2007. Among AIANs enrolled in Medicaid within 365 days of a cancer diagnosis, we linked cancer registry records with Medicaid enrollment data and used a multivariate logistic regression model to compare the odds of delayed Medicaid enrollment between those with (n = 223) and without (n = 177) IHSCS eligibility.
Among AIANs who enrolled in Medicaid during the year following their cancer diagnosis, approximately 32% enrolled >1 month following diagnosis. Comparing those without IHSCS eligibility to those with IHSCS eligibility, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for moderately late Medicaid enrollment (between 1 and 6 months after diagnosis) relative to early Medicaid enrollment (=1 month after diagnosis) was 1.10 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.62-1.95] and for very late Medicaid enrollment (>6 months to 12 months after diagnosis), OR was 1.14 (CI, 0.54-2.43).
IHSCS eligibility at the time of diagnosis does not seem to facilitate early Medicaid enrollment.
Because cancer survival rates in AIANs are among the lowest of any racial group, additional research is needed to identify factors that improve access to care in AIANs.