Report finds flaws in Florida's efforts against cancer


Florida has received failing grades from an American Cancer Society political-action committee for not taking more steps to prevent cancer and for not expanding access to health care for uninsured working adults.

In the organization’s annual “How You Measure Up?” report, Florida earned passing, or green, marks in just one of nine categories —- for a Medicaid program that treats women with breast and cervical cancer.

Known as the Mary Brogan Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, lawmakers reduced funding for the program this year compared to prior year levels. But it’s the first time that the Legislature has agreed to use recurring money to fund the program — named after former Lt. Gov Frank Brogan’s late wife —- which means it should be built into the base of future state budgets.

The report measures Florida and other states on where they stand on issues that the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network says will reduce suffering and death from cancer. The report says the guidelines set by the organization are based on “proven policy solutions.”

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 2.1 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2018.

Florida earned a failing, or red, score for not passing a law to ban minors from using tanning devices. Current law allows children under age 14 to use tanning devices when accompanied by adults. Parental consent to use tanning devices is required for children between ages 14 and 18.

The state also failed to meet the organization’s benchmark for Medicaid smoking-cessation policies. According to the report, not all Medicaid patients are entitled to counseling or have access to tobacco-cessation medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Florida is one of 17 states that have not passed a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The refusal to do so earned the state a failing grade in the report.

Meanwhile, the report said Florida made improvements in such ways as introducing the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s model legislation to create a statewide expert advisory council on end-of-life care.

Also, the group gave Florida improvement scores for its 2018 tobacco-control funding, $68.6 million, and for its cigarette tax rate.

This year’s report includes information on how Florida new policies related to opioids impact cancer patients. Cancer society executives have included the information in a “Hanging in the Balance” section of the report and say it will be a recurring feature in future reports.

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