The Affordable Care Act and suicide incidence among adults with cancer

J Cancer Surviv. 2023 Apr;17(2):449-459. doi: 10.1007/s11764-022-01205-z. Epub 2022 Apr 4.


Background: Patients with cancer are at an increased suicide risk, and socioeconomic deprivation may further exacerbate that risk. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded insurance coverage options for low-income individuals and mandated coverage of mental health care. Our objective was to quantify associations of the ACA with suicide incidence among patients with cancer.

Methods: We identified US patients with cancer aged 18-74 years diagnosed with cancer from 2011 to 2016 from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database. The primary outcome was the 1-year incidence of suicide based on cumulative incidence analyses. Difference-in-differences (DID) analyses compared changes in suicide incidence from 2011-2013 (pre-ACA) to 2014-2016 (post-ACA) in Medicaid expansion relative to non-expansion states. We conducted falsification tests with 65-74-year-old patients with cancer, who are Medicare-eligible and not expected to benefit from ACA provisions.

Results: We identified 1,263,717 patients with cancer, 812 of whom died by suicide. In DID analyses, there was no change in suicide incidence after 2014 in Medicaid expansion vs. non-expansion states for nonelderly (18-64 years) patients with cancer (p = .41), but there was a decrease in suicide incidence among young adults (18-39 years) (- 64.36 per 100,000, 95% CI = - 125.96 to - 2.76, p = .041). There were no ACA-associated changes in suicide incidence among 65-74-year-old patients with cancer.

Conclusions: We found an ACA-associated decrease in the incidence of suicide for some nonelderly patients with cancer, particularly young adults in Medicaid expansion vs. non-expansion states. Expanding access to health care may decrease the risk of suicide among cancer survivors.

Keywords: Affordable Care Act; Cancer; Insurance; Medicaid expansion; Suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Health
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Neoplasms*
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  • Suicide*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult