New ACS CAN Report Shows Utah Falling Short on Cancer-Fighting Public Policies

Utah is falling short 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, Utah measured up to only two policy recommendations in the nine 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, Utah legislators must take advantage of the opportunities to pass evidence-based laws and policies that are proven to save lives and money,” said ACS CAN Utah Government Relations Director Brook Carlisle “In Utah alone in 2015, 11,050 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 2,900 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 nine 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 and offers a well-balanced approach to pain medications.

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 Utah fails to take action on cancer-fighting policy. Passing and implementing the policy recommendations in the report would not only save lives in Utah, 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 Utah Measures Up: FALLING BEHIND

Cigarette Tax Rates   GREEN
Smoke-free Laws   GREEN
Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding   YELLOW
Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services   RED
Indoor Tanning Device Restrictions   YELLOW
Increased Access to Medicaid   YELLOW
Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Funding   RED
Access to Palliative Care   RED
Pain Policy   YELLOW

One issue in Utah that ACS CAN is urging policymakers to adopt involves broadening access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage for low-income persons—including childless adults—such as was contemplated by the Healthy Utah plan this legislative session.

“While we understand the State of Utah continues with deliberations regarding how to fund an extended range of health care options for all state residents, we would like to remind Utah policymakers that health-conscious alternatives do exist for revenue generation in the form of state tobacco tax increases,” said Carlisle. “Regular and significant increases in tobacco tax rates are perhaps the single-most effective way to help current tobacco users quit while preventing large numbers of kids from ever becoming addicted.”