Association of Insurance and Community-Level Socioeconomic Status With Treatment and Outcome of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Pharynx

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Sep 1;143(9):899-907. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2017.0837.


Importance: Community-level socioeconomic status, particularly insurance status, is increasingly becoming important as a possible determinant in patient outcomes.

Objective: To determine the association of insurance and community-level socioeconomic status with outcome for patients with pharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Design, setting, and participants: This study extracted data from more than 1500 Commission on Cancer-accredited facilities collected in the National Cancer Database. A total of 35 559 patients diagnosed with SCC of the pharynx from 2004 through 2013 were identified. The χ2 test, Kaplan-Meier method, and Cox regression models were used to analyze data from April 1, 2016, through April 16, 2017.

Main outcomes and measures: Overall survival was defined as time to death from the date of diagnosis.

Results: Among the 35 559 patients identified (75.6% men and 24.4% women; median age, 61 years [range, 18-90 years]), 15 146 (42.6%) had Medicare coverage; 13 061 (36.7%), private insurance; 4881 (13.7%), Medicaid coverage; and 2471 (6.9%), no insurance. Uninsured patients and Medicaid recipients were more likely to be younger, black, or Hispanic; to have lower median household income and lower educational attainment; to present with higher TNM stages of disease; and to start primary treatment at a later time from diagnosis. Those with private insurance (reference group) had significantly better overall survival than uninsured patients (hazard ratio [HR], 1.72; 95% CI, 1.59-1.87), Medicaid recipients (HR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.88-2.12), or Medicare recipients (HR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.99-2.16), as did those with median household income of at least $63 000 (reference) vs $48 000 to $62 999 (HR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.13-1.26), $38 000 to $47 999 (HR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.24-1.38), and less than $38 000 (HR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.43-1.59). On multivariable analysis, insurance status and median household income remained independent prognostic factors for overall survival even after accounting for educational attainment, race, Charlson/Deyo comorbidity score, disease site, and TNM stage of disease.

Conclusions and relevance: Insurance status and household income level are associated with outcome in patients with SCC of the pharynx. Those without insurance and with lower household income may significantly benefit from improving access to adequate, timely medical care. Additional investigations are necessary to develop targeted interventions to optimize access to standard medical treatments, adherence to physician management recommendations, and subsequently, prognosis in these patients at risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Insurance Coverage*
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • Medically Uninsured*
  • Medicare
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Private Sector
  • Social Class
  • United States
  • Young Adult