North Carolina Falling Short on Cancer-Fighting Public Policies

North Carolina 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

North Carolina 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, North Carolina 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 the state must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer by implementing proven cancer-fighting policies.


“This year alone in North Carolina, 58,690 people will be diagnosed with cancer,” said Christine Weason, North Carolina 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.


The report lays out how North Carolina can 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, improve funding for breast and cervical cancer screening programs, and defeat short-term, limited duration proposals that would provide inadequate coverage to cancer patients—and details the negative financial and human impact if North Carolina 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.


“The state needs to close the gap for people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to get help in the private insurance marketplace,” said Weason. “A family of four earning $12,000 makes too much for Medicaid in North Carolina; but until they earn $25,100, they don’t qualify for subsidies on the Health Insurance Marketplace. If North Carolina closed the coverage gap, 400,000 people would get access to affordable, reliable health insurance.”


Passing and implementing the policy recommendations in the report would not only save lives in North Carolina, 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 North Carolina Measures Up:


Increased Access to Medicaid                                                    red

Access to Palliative Care                                                             red

Pain Policy                                                                                    yellow

Cigarette Tax Rates                                                                     red

Smoke-free Laws                                                                         yellow

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding             red                                          

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services                 yellow

Indoor Tanning                                                                             green


“By passing laws that prevent cancer and help patients get the care they need, our lawmakers can save lives and money in North Carolina,” said Weason. “We stand ready to work with our leaders to build a healthier and brighter future for North Carolinians 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 North Carolina’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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