In the latest edition of “How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality,” the organization said Tennessee is falling short in implementing policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from the disease.
A color-coded system classified how well a state is doing in each issue. Green shows a state has adopted “evidence-based policies and best practices,” while yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark and red shows where states are falling short.
Tennessee fell short in cigarette tax rates, smoke-free laws, tobacco prevention funding, indoor tanning restrictions for minors and increased access to Medicaid, which has not been expanded in Tennessee.
“This report shows that we must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer. But we have the power to make a difference for Tennesseans immediately by implementing proven cancer-fighting policies,” American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network spokeswoman Emily Ogden said following the release of the report Thursday.
“This year alone in Tennessee, 36,790 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.”
On Thursday, state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said he has been receptive to the plight of his constituents with cancer and touted a bill he voted for in committee mandating insurance providers charge the same co-pay for the same cancer treatment drugs whether they are administered orally or intravenously.
“I spoke with a number of constituents before my vote for HB 1059 (the treatment parity bill) that the legislation would have directly affected,” the representative said. “Just last month while knocking on doors (as part of my campaign to get re-elected), I spoke with more constituents who are battling cancer.”
Van Huss voted for the bill in 2017 in the House Insurance and Banking Committee. It did not make it to the full House floor before the end of the General Assembly’s session in April and was stalled in committee in the Senate. Van Huss did not address the study’s findings on Medicaid expansion.
While state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, could not be immediately reached for comment, state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, member of the House Health Committee, said legislators “are always working on innovative solutions to help better address deadly illnesses including cancer.”
“During the 2017 legislative session, I supported House Bill 1059 in an effort to control patient costs for forms of chemotherapy offered at treatment facilities,” Hill wrote in an emailed statement. “This year, I supported House Bill 1489 which curbs instances of skin cancer in our children by prohibiting anyone under 18 from using a device within tanning facilities.”
Hill said he did not believe expanding Medicaid access to more state residents would improve the state’s overall health.
“In states where the program has been expanded, access and quality of care that patients receive have been negatively impacted by higher volumes of participants, smaller numbers of doctors and the fact that the government does not pay enough to cover the cost of the type of care needed to achieve beneficial outcomes,” he said. “Additionally, Tennessee attempted to previously expand TennCare, and it practically bankrupted our state.”