WASHINGTON, D.C. – Aug. 6, 2015 – A majority of states are not measuring up on legislative solutions that prevent and fight cancer, according to a report released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality” rates states on the strength of proven policies that help to prevent a disease that kills more than 1,600 people a day nationwide and will cost the country an estimated $216 billion in health care costs this year alone.
The report, which was released at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting in Seattle, WA, finds that 25 states have reached benchmarks in only two or fewer of the nine legislative priority areas measured by ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia measure up in just three to five areas and only three states – Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont – meet benchmarks in six of the nine categories. No state meets benchmarks in seven or more policy areas.
“Most states are failing to implement laws and policies that not only prevent cancer and save lives, but lower health care costs and generate revenue at the same time,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “By enacting evidence-based policies that encourage cancer prevention, guarantee access to affordable health care, curb tobacco use and improve patients’ quality of life, state lawmakers can create a legacy of better health.”
The 13th edition of How Do You Measure Up? rates states on the strength of policies including smoke-free workplace laws, tobacco taxes, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and cessation coverage under Medicaid, funding for cancer screening programs and indoor tanning restrictions for minors. The report also looks at whether or not states have accepted available federal funds to increase access to care through their Medicaid program, passed policies to increase patient quality of life and adopted balanced approaches to provide access to pain medications.
A color-coded system is used to identify how well a state is doing. Green represents the benchmark position, showing that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices; yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark and red shows where a state is falling short.
How Do You Measure Up? also offers a blueprint for effective implementation of provisions of the federal health care law that benefit cancer patients and their families, such as ensuring transparency in health plans sold in state exchanges, ensuring access to cancer drugs and providing essential health benefits for chronic disease patients. In addition, the report highlights strategies to increase access to healthy foods and places for physical activity in communities.
“Roughly half of all cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone were to stop using tobacco, eat healthy foods in moderation, exercise regularly and get recommended screenings. Lawmakers play a key role in making this a reality,” said Hansen. “This report highlights the proven policy interventions available to state lawmakers that can not only eliminate barriers to the prevention and treatment of cancer but also benefit the financial health of their states.”
Although many states are falling short when it comes to passing cancer-fighting policies, others are making steady progress. The 2015 report shows that increasing access to Medicaid is the most-met benchmark, with 29 states and the District of Columbia having accepted the federal funds set aside to improve access to health care through Medicaid. This is a 6 percent increase from the number of states that received a “green” ranking in this category in the 2014 report.
Unfortunately, 8 million low-income adults and families continue to lack access to affordable health coverage solely because their states have not yet increased access to Medicaid.
The number of states that met the benchmark in increasing access to palliative care doubled from 2014 to 2015. Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on improving the quality of life for patients and families by providing coordinated, team-based care and offering relief from often debilitating symptoms of treatment.
In 2014, only five states measured up when it came to passing ACS CAN model legislation or similar legislation to increase awareness of and access to palliative care. In the 2015 legislative session, Alabama, Texas, Maine, Oklahoma and Oregon passed such legislation.
Alarmingly, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs is one of the issues with the fewest states meeting the benchmark in this year’s report. Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death nationwide and this year alone, it will claim the lives of more than 480,000 people in the United States. Yet, just seven states measure up when it comes to adequately funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs proven to help prevent young people from using these deadly products and help those already addicted to quit. Not only would investing in these evidence-based programs save lives, it would reduce health care costs associated with tobacco use, which this year will total $170 billion nationwide.
An estimated 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 580,000 will die from the disease this year. One-third of all cancer deaths are attributable to tobacco and one-third to overweight and obesity.
For a copy of the complete report, visit www.acscan.org.
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
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