Alabama Falling Short on Cancer-Fighting Public Policies

Alabama Lawmakers Have Opportunities to Save Lives and Money by Improving Access to Affordable Health Coverage and Implementing Effective Tobacco Control and Quality of Life Measures

August 1, 2019

Alabama is falling short when it comes to implementing policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer. According to the latest edition of How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality, Alabama measured up to policy recommendations in only one of the eight evaluated issue areas. The report was released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).


The 17th edition of the report highlights that we must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer.


“This year alone in Alabama, 28,950 people will be diagnosed with cancer,” said Ginny Campbell, Alabama government relations director for ACS CAN. “We owe it to them—and to everyone at risk of developing this disease—to do everything in our power to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment. This report provides lawmakers a legislative path forward to improve cancer prevention efforts, curb tobacco use, prioritize the quality of life for patients and their families and increase access to critical health coverage.”


How Do You Measure Up? rates states in eight specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer: increased access to care through Medicaid, access to palliative care, balanced pain control policies, cigarette tax levels, smoke-free laws, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, cessation coverage under Medicaid and restricting indoor tanning devices for people under 18.


This year’s report includes a special section examining efforts to stem youth tobacco product use by raising the legal age of sale for tobacco to 21. E-cigarettes have driven a dramatic 36% rise in youth tobacco product use over the last year—and in statehouses across the country, policymakers have prioritized efforts to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our kids, introducing 88 bills that raised the age of sale for tobacco products.  But state lawmakers’ good-faith efforts have been co-opted by the tobacco industry, who want to use these laws to advance policies that will interfere with effective tobacco control and protect their profits. In fact, 55 out of the 88 age of sale bills introduced in 2019 included provisions that advance tobacco industry interests. The special section draws attention to Big Tobacco’s dangerous agenda—including preempting local governments’ ability to pass strong tobacco control laws—and outlines the principles that make tobacco 21 policies effective.


This year, lawmakers maintained funding for the Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program for low-income uninsured and underinsured women administered by the Alabama Department of Health. The health care coverage provided by Medicaid affords women screened and diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer access to comprehensive health care coverage through the end of their treatment and is has been critical in the fight against cancer for more than two million cancer patients and survivors.


The report lays out how Alabama can further improve access to affordable and adequate health coverage for cancer patients and their families. It details nationwide efforts to increase access to care through Medicaid and defeat short-term, limited duration proposals that would provide inadequate coverage to cancer patients—and details the negative financial and human impact if Alabama fails to take action in these areas. Currently 35 states and the District of Columbia have increased access to health coverage through their state’s Medicaid program, as allowed through current law. Alabama has turned its back on more than 144,000 low-income, working adults denying them access to an affordable health coverage option, through the state’s Medicaid program.


Passing and implementing the policy recommendations in the report would not only save lives in Alabama, but also save millions in long-term health care costs and in some cases would even generate additional, much-needed revenue.


A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing in each issue. Green shows 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. 



How Alabama Measures Up:


Increased Access to Medicaid                                                    red

Access to Palliative Care                                                             green

Pain Policy                                                                                    yellow

Cigarette Tax Rates                                                                      red

Smoke-free Laws                                                                          red

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding              red                                          

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services                  yellow

Indoor Tanning                                                                              red


“By passing laws that prevent cancer and help patients get the care they need, our lawmakers can save lives and money in Alabama,” said Campbell, “We stand ready to work with our leaders to build a healthier and brighter future for Alabamians and eliminate death and suffering from cancer.”


Nationally, the report finds that increased access to health coverage through Medicaid is the most met benchmark, with 35 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, having broadened Medicaid eligibility to cover individuals earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($17,236 a year for an individual and $35,535 for a family of four). Smoke-free legislation is the second-most met benchmark with 27 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, considered “doing well.”


To view the complete report and details on Alabama’s ratings, visit


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

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