In February, Gov. Bill Lee released his proposed state operating budget, which includes a $2 million dollar increase in tobacco prevention program funding. On Jan. 15, he signed the Medicaid block grant waiver into law over patient advocacy groups' objections. Emily Ogden, director of government relations in Tennessee for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), shared statements on both.
Tobacco Cessation Funding
"As an organization dedicated to reducing suffering and death from cancer, ACS CAN is pleased to see the governor prioritizing public health in his proposed budget. Today, the governor proposed increasing funding for the Tennessee Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program.
"Increasing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation is a vital first step to protect Tennessee youth from a lifetime of tobacco addiction and help more tobacco users quit. The program implements evidence-based strategies to reduce tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death nationwide. This is especially important since over 32 percent of cancer deaths in Tennessee are attributed to smoking.
"This program is also an essential tool in reducing health disparities. The tobacco industry's marketing strategies have led to significant tobacco use disparities, including higher use of tobacco products among people with lower incomes, Black Tennesseeans and LGBTQ individuals. By increasing funding to the state's tobacco control program, Tennessee can better address the deadly consequences of tobacco use disparities.
"ACS CAN applauds Gov. Lee for a budget proposal that prioritizes cancer prevention and looks forward to working with the governor and the legislature to ensure that the final budget includes adequate funding for this lifesaving program."
"For months, ACS CAN and other patient advocacy groups have voiced their concerns and objections to the approval of Tennessee's Medicaid 1115 Research and Demonstration waiver. This waiver will add additional barriers to health insurance coverage and lifesaving therapies critical to individuals and their families with lower incomes, including those with cancer, cancer survivors and those who will be diagnosed with the disease.
"The TennCare III waiver will cap the amount of federal funds available to the state to run Tennessee's TennCare program. Implementation of this policy will reduce TennCare enrollees' access to lifesaving care, including cancer treatments.
"Even as we face this global pandemic, 41,980 Tennesseans will hear the words "you have cancer" this year. Research has proven that individuals without health insurance are more likely than those with insurance to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage when it is more costly to treat, and individuals are less likely to survive.
"As an organization dedicated to saving lives and improving access to care, ACS CAN finds this action taken by state lawmakers and Gov. Lee unconscionable."