Rhode Island Getting Mixed Reviews on Cancer Fighting Public Policies

August 11, 2016

PROVIDENCE - August 11, 2016 - Rhode Island is making progress when it comes to supporting 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, Rhode Island measured up to policy recommendations in just six of the ten issue areas ranked. The report was released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

"We've made tremendous progress in the way we diagnose and treat cancer across the country. But to leverage this progress, Rhode Island legislators must take advantage of the opportunities to pass evidence-based laws and policies that are proven to save lives and money," said Susan Roberts, Director of Government Relations for ACS CAN in Rhode Island. "In Rhode Island alone in 2016, 6,190 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 2,090 will die from it. We can't wait to take action when the stakes are that high. This report outlines ways lawmakers can make a difference by emphasizing cancer prevention, curbing tobacco use and prioritizing quality of life for patients and their families."

How Do You Measure Up? rates states in 10 specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer, including smoke-free laws, tobacco tax levels, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and cessation coverage under Medicaid, funding for cancer screening programs and restricting indoor tanning devices for minors. The report also looks at whether or not a state has said yes to federal funds available to increase access to care through its Medicaid program, has passed policies proven to increase patient quality of life, offers a well-balanced approach to pain medications and, for the first time, examines where states land when it comes to passing and implementing legislation to help ensure patients' oral chemotherapy drugs are covered by insurance the same as intravenous chemotherapy.

Additionally, the report offers a blueprint for states to effectively implement provisions of the health care law in a way that benefits cancer patients and their families, and discusses the negative financial impact if Rhode Island fails to take action on cancer-fighting policy. Additionally, How Do You Measure Up? highlights other policies proven to prevent diseases like cancer including recommended requirements for physical education and physical activity in schools. Passing and implementing the policy recommendations in the report would not only save lives in Rhode Island, 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 Rhode Island Measures Up:

Cigarette Tax Rates: Green

Smoke-free Laws: Green

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding: Red

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services: Yellow

Indoor Tanning Device Use Restrictions: Red

Increased Access to Medicaid: Green

Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Funding: Red

Access to Palliative Care: Green

Pain Policy: Green

Oral Chemotherapy Parity: Green

"As advocates, we've worked hard to educate Rhode Islanders about ways to prevent and treat cancer, but our voice is not enough if state and local policymakers don't take action to fund and implement state policies and programs that are proven to save lives," said Roberts.

Nationally, the report finds that only four states meet six out of the 10 benchmarks measured. Maine and Massachusetts are the only two states to meet seven our of 10 benchmarks. Oral chemotherapy fairness legislation is the most met benchmark with 42 states and the District of Columbia.

To view the complete report and details on Rhode Island's grades, visit

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