Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.


ACS CAN Report Measures State Progress in Fight Against Cancer

August 9, 2018

Curious how your state measures up in the fight against cancer? The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) annual How Do You Measure Up? report reveals that a majority of states are still missing opportunities to save lives and protect the health of their residents. With all the uncertainty surrounding the health care landscape in our nation, it's more important than ever that lawmakers take the proven steps outlined in this report to help prevent and treat cancer in their states.

While there certainly were noteworthy public health victories this year – more on that below – there is room for improvement when it comes to states passing policies that are proven to save more lives from cancer.

Now in its 16th year, the report grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories where data is available, on nine policy issues that critically impact cancer incidence and death in the United States:

  1. Increased Access to Medicaid
  2. Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Funding
  3. Access to Palliative Care
  4. Balanced Pain Policy
  5. Cigarette Excise Tax Rates
  6. Smoke-free Laws
  7. Tobacco Control Program Funding
  8. Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services
  9. Laws that Prohibit Minors from Using Indoor Tanning Devices

In addition to taking a comprehensive look at all of these important issues, this year’s report also features a deep dive on pain policy in the new, feature section: Hanging in the Balance: A Special Section on the Impact of Pain Policy. We’ve seen a drastic increase of state legislative proposals related to pain management in recent years – from less than 80 in 2015 to over 470 in 2018. ACS CAN continues to advocate for a balanced approach to addressing the national epidemic of opioid abuse and misuse that protects cancer patients and survivors’ ability to access the pain treatments they need to live and thrive. To better reflect the latest in pain policy trends and encourage policymakers to strike this important balance, ACS CAN updated the evaluative criteria of our state Pain Policy Report Card.

How Do You Measure Up? uses a color-coded system to classify how well a state is doing in each legislative priority issue; green indicates that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices; yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark; and red shows where states are falling short on cancer-fighting legislation. This year’s report finds that only two states - Massachusetts and California - are considered “doing well” by meeting the benchmark in six and seven categories, respectively. Unfortunately, 18 states are “falling short” by meeting benchmarks in two or fewer categories; Idaho and Mississippi did not meet benchmarks for any of the nine categories.

Even though policymakers missed opportunities to fight cancer, the tireless work of ACS CAN staff and volunteers led to many successful state legislative campaigns:

  • The most met benchmark is increasing access to health coverage through Medicaid, with 34 states, including the District of Columbia, having broadened eligibility to cover individuals under 138% of the federal poverty line.
  • Tobacco Excise Taxes: In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that included a $1.00 per pack cigarette tax increase, a win that will prevent an estimated 17,000 young people in Oklahoma from becoming adults who smoke. The District of Columbia also passed a significant cigarette tax increase of $2.00 per pack which is expected to lower youth smoking rates in the District by 20.6 percent and save approximately 2,000 lives.  This increase will not go into effect until October, 2018
  • Indoor Tanning: After strong efforts by many dedicated volunteers, both the New York and Rhode Island legislatures passed bills—sponsored by Sen. Phil Boyle and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee in New York and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Mia Ackerman in Rhode Island—that prohibit the use of indoor tanning devices by anyone under 18. The Rhode Island bill was signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo and the New York bill is expected to be signed into law soon by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. These measures will save thousands of young people from an increased risk of skin cancer. 
  • Palliative Care: West Virginia Delegate Amy Summers introduced palliative care legislation that establishes an advisory coalition of experts to increase patient awareness, provider training and overall access to palliative care; Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill into law in March of this year. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed into law a similar bill establishing an advisory council to expand access to palliative care for Kansans with long-term illnesses. In South Carolina, the legislature passed House Bill 4935 to create the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Study Committee and evaluate how the state can improve the quality of life for both patients and families.  
  • Tobacco Cessation Services in Medicaid: The ACS CAN Kansas team worked with other health advocates to introduce legislation that provides all Kansas Medicaid participants with access to various types of tobacco cessation counseling for up to four quit attempts per year, a bill that was unanimously supported by the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and eventually voted into law. And this year’s report reflects a victory in South Carolina, which now offers comprehensive, accessible tobacco cessation coverage to Medicaid participants.

The annual HDYMU report is a reminder to all state and local legislators that the decisions they make can be the difference between life and death for state residents – those already dealing with cancer and everyone at risk of developing the disease. Reflecting on the year of successes and missed opportunities, ACS CAN staff and volunteers remain committed to working with lawmakers to build a healthier future in every state.

Find out how your state is doing in the fight against cancer at

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