OKLAHOMA CITY — March 20, 2020 — Seven national organizations representing patients facing serious chronic medical conditions released the following statement regarding Gov. Kevin Stitt’s “SoonerCare 2.0” plan:
North Carolina Falling Short on Cancer-Fighting Public Policies in 2018
North Carolina Lawmakers Have Opportunities to Save Lives and Money Through Improving Access to Affordable Health Coverage, Tobacco Control and Quality of Life Measures
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 just two of the nine issue areas. The report was released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
“This 16th edition of the report shows that we must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer. We have the power to make a difference for North Carolinians immediately by implementing proven cancer fighting policies,” said Christine Weason, ACS CAN North Carolina government relations director. “This year alone in North Carolina, 55,130 people will be diagnosed with cancer. We owe it to them and everyone at risk of developing the disease, to do what we know works to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment. This report shows 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 nine specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer, including increased access to care through Medicaid, funding for cancer screening programs, smoke-free laws, cigarette tax levels, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, cessation coverage under Medicaid and restricting indoor tanning devices for minors. The report also looks at whether a state provides a balanced approach to pain medication and if it has passed policies proven to increase patient quality of life.
This year’s report also highlights a significant trend: in 2015, there were fewer than 80 state legislative proposals introduced related to pain management and opioid issues nationwide; in 2018, there have been more than 470 state legislative proposals introduced across the country regarding these same issues. Hanging in the Balance: A Special Section on the Impact of Pain Policy evaluates whether North Carolina is implementing balanced pain policies and takes a deeper dive into how states can reduce opioid abuse while ensuring patients who legitimately need these drugs maintain access to them. Many cancer patients and survivors need pain medication to live and complete even the most basic day-to-day tasks—but across the country, the wave of state legislation meant to address opioid abuse has had unintended consequences, making it harder for people with cancer or chronic diseases to access legitimate pain care.
Additionally, the report offers a blueprint for how North Carolina can work within the current federal health care law on state-based approaches to improve access to affordable and adequate health coverage for cancer patients and their families. It outlines opportunities to improve prescription drug formulary transparency, protect patients from the adverse impacts of 1115 waivers and increase access to care through Medicaid—and details the negative financial, physical and emotional impact if North Carolina fails to take action in these areas.
Currently 34 states have increased access to health coverage through their state’s Medicaid program, as allowed through current law. North Carolina has turned its back on thousands of 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 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
Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Funding Green
Access to Palliative Care Red
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 Green
“As advocates, we have the opportunity to work with our state legislators on implementing policies and programs that prevent and treat cancer,” said John Tramontin, ACS CAN volunteer from Cary. “Together, we can build stronger, healthier communities and ensure North Carolinians have access to measures that prevent disease before it occurs, ultimately saving more lives from cancer.”
Nationally, the report finds that increased access to health coverage through Medicaid is the most met benchmark, with 34 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, having broadened Medicaid eligibility to cover individuals under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Smoke-free legislation is the second-most met benchmark with 25 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 grades, visit www.fightcancer.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.fightcancer.org.