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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008 Jul 16;100(14):1013-21. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djn208. Epub 2008 Jul 8.

Disenrollment from Medicare managed care among beneficiaries with and without a cancer diagnosis.

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  • 1Health Outcomes Research Group, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave, Box 44, New York, NY 10021, USA.



Medicare managed care may offer enrollees lower out-of-pocket costs and provide benefits that are not available in the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program. However, managed care plans may also restrict provider choice in an effort to control costs. We compared rates of voluntary disenrollment from Medicare managed care to traditional fee-for-service Medicare among Medicare managed care enrollees with and without a cancer diagnosis.


We identified Medicare managed care enrollees aged 65 years or older who were diagnosed with a first primary breast (n = 28 331), colorectal (n = 26 494), prostate (n = 29 046), or lung (n = 31 243) cancer from January 1, 1995, through December 31, 2002, in Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) cancer registry records linked with Medicare enrollment files. Cancer patients were pair-matched to cancer-free enrollees by age, sex, race, and geographic location. We estimated rates of voluntary disenrollment to fee-for-service Medicare in the 2 years after each cancer patient's diagnosis, adjusted for plan characteristics and Medicare managed care penetration, by use of Cox proportional hazards regression.


In the 2 years after diagnosis, cancer patients were less likely to disenroll from Medicare managed care than their matched cancer-free peers (for breast cancer, adjusted hazard ratio [HR] for disenrollment = 0.78, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.74 to 0.82; for colorectal cancer, HR = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.80 to 0.88; for prostate cancer, HR = 0.86, 95% CI = 0.82 to 0.90; and for lung cancer, HR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.76 to 0.86). Results were consistent across strata of age, sex, race, SEER registry, and cancer stage.


A new cancer diagnosis between 1995 and 2002 did not precipitate voluntary disenrollment from Medicare managed care to traditional fee-for-service Medicare.

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