Delaware making progress on cancer-fighting policies

Delaware has mixed grades 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,” Delaware measured up to policy recommendations in five of the nine issue areas. The report was released last week 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 Delawareans immediately by implementing proven cancer fighting policies.

This year alone in Delaware, more than 6,000 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 Delaware 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.

“While Delaware lawmakers work to address the opioid epidemic, they must reject policies that compromise access to appropriate pain management and continue to protect the needs of cancer patients and survivors who deal with pain every day,” said ACS CAN Director of State and Local Campaigns David Woodmansee.

Passing and implementing the policy recommendations in the report would not only save lives in Delaware, but also save millions in long-term health care costs.

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 Delaware measures up:

Increased Access to Medicaid — Green

Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Funding — Green

Cigarette Tax Rates — Green

Smoke-free Laws — Green

Indoor Tanning — Green

Access to Palliative Care — Yellow

Pain Policy — Yellow

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding — Yellow

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services — Yellow

As advocates, we have the opportunity to work with our state legislators on implementing policies and programs that prevent and treat cancer. Together, we can build stronger, healthier communities and ensure Delawareans 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 Delaware’s grades, visit www.acscan.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeanne Chiquoine is the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Delaware government relations director.

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