Washington, D.C.—The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote today on legislation that if enacted would greatly improve public health. The legislation would nearly double the federal cigarette tax, create tax parity on some tobacco products, develop a new health care coverage option in states that have not expanded Medicaid, make permanent increased tax credits for marketplace coverage, and cap Medicare enrollees’ out-of-pocket drug costs.
A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:
“This bill is a great step toward improving our nation’s public health and reducing our cancer burden. Increasing tobacco taxes has repeatedly proven to be among the most effective means to reduce tobacco use—the number one preventable cause of cancer. In just the first year, the proposed tax is estimated to reduce the number of adults who smoke by 1.1 million and, over time, would avoid an estimated 250,000 smoking-related premature deaths. Youth are especially price-sensitive and ensuring all tobacco products are taxed at an equitable level will help close loopholes the tobacco industry uses to entice kids from one product to another.
“Increased tobacco taxes have also proven to be especially effective reducing the health burden created by high tobacco use in communities with lower-education levels and limited incomes by encouraging people to quit.
“Preventing tobacco-related health issues is a critical component to reducing the cancer burden and improved public health but keeping people healthy also requires ensuring they have access to comprehensive affordable health coverage when they need it. Creating a way for people with limited-incomes who live in states that have refused to expand Medicaid to get health coverage is critical to preventing, detecting, and treating cancer and reducing needless suffering and deaths from the disease. ACS CAN welcomes the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees’ efforts to ensure everyone has access to health insurance.
“Affordable health care is critical for cancer patients, survivors, and all those at risk for the disease. Ensuring those who have coverage can afford to keep it and use it is also essential, which is why we are pleased to see the committee act to make permanent the additional subsidies to purchase health coverage in the marketplace and to cap Medicare enrollee’s out-of-pocket drug costs.
“Together these provisions could help millions of Americans quit tobacco, gain access to comprehensive health care and better afford the care they need. On behalf of all those affected by cancer we strongly encourage Congress to act swiftly and pass these measures into law.”