Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 25, 2013

Forum: How does Michigan measure up?

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — By Lisa Danto

Michigan is falling short on its legislative work to combat cancer, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network.

“How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality” evaluates each state’s activity on issues crucial to winning the fight against cancer. The report finds Michigan measured up to benchmarks in only three of 10 measured areas.

How Do You Measure Up? grades 10 state policy areas: breast and cervical cancer early detection program funding; tanning bed restrictions for minors; physical education time requirements; smoke-free laws; tobacco prevention program funding; tobacco taxes; improved access to Medicaid; policies to prevent and treat pain; and access to palliative care.

A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing. Green shows 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 Michigan Measures Up:

n Smoke-Free Law: Green

n Tobacco Tax and Price Increase: Red

n Tobacco Tax Rates: Green

n Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Funding: Red

n Indoor Tanning Bed Restrictions for Minors: Red

n Physical Education Time Requirements: Red

n Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Funding: Red

n Effective Pain Policy: Green

n Access to Palliative Care: Yellow

n Medicaid Expansion: Yellow

This year in Michigan, an estimated 57,560 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 20,570 will die from it. People without health coverage are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages, when patients are less likely to survive and treatments are more costly.

Michigan, according to the report, is falling short to increase access to Medicaid. Legislators still have time this year to do something about that, though the clock is ticking. Michigan has the option to increase access to health coverage through Medicaid to potentially 450,000 low-income Michiganders who may not currently have access to quality health care or lifesaving cancer screenings and treatment.

Ensuring access to care for low-income adults and families is essential to the fight against cancer. Accepting the opportunity to cover more such people through Medicaid will allow them to receive recommended cancer screenings, which can prevent certain cancers or detect them early while the cancer can still be easily treated.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Michigan and costs Michigan $382 million each year in smoking-related Medicaid costs. Smoking is a known cause of cancer and can interfere with cancer treatment. Medicaid expansion should include tobacco addiction treatment for smokers and chewers.

Improving access to Medicaid coverage will help improve public health and reduce the cancer burden in Michigan. As a nurse and advocate for cancer patients, I urge the Michigan Senate to expand access to Medicaid to provide more of these services and save taxpayer dollars.

View the report at:

About the author: Lisa Danto is a registered nurse and holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master of public health degree, is a nationally certified tobacco addiction specialist and is American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network volunteer coordinator for the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition. She is the American Lung Association Freedom From Smoking program facilitator; by e-mail at:

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing Please include biographical information and a photo.