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South Dakota Fails Cancer Policy Report Card

The big news in Bob Mercer’s article on the American Cancer Society’s rating of state legislative activity is that Bob Mercer posted an article with twelve hyperlinks. Twelve!

Secondarily, the American Cancer Society says South Dakota falls short on five of eight measures of smart, life-saving and money-saving policies for fighting cancer.

We bomb out on access to care. Obviously, we remain among the knuckleheads not expanding Medicaid:

Medicaid Expansion by State, in "How Do You Measure Up?" American Cancer Society, released 2019.08.01, p. 9.
Medicaid Expansion by State, in “How Do You Measure Up?” American Cancer Society, released 2019.08.01, p. 9.

The American Cancer Society provides three studies showing that Medicaid coverage “is proven to improve health outcomes and reduce the burden of cancer” [p. 10].

The other black marks on South Dakota’s cancer report card:

  • We don’t invest in early detection programs for breast and cervical cancer. (Gee, our Legislature and Governor usually express deep concern about healthy lady parts….)
  • We have no palliative care advisory council to promote services available to help patients deal with pain and stress. ACS says palliative care can reduce cancer patients’ costs 22% to 32%.
  • We’re one of seven states that have failed to get even halfway toward the ACS’s model policy for “curbing opioid misuse and abuse while maintaining access to pain relief for patients.”
  • We are one of ten states that don’t provide any counseling or medication through Medicaid to help people kick their tobacco habit. ACS reports that covering such services in Massachusetts cost the state $183 per participant and saved the state $571 per participant in annual hospital costs.
  • We are one of 33 states that don’t restrict indoor tanning for kids. The ACS says that indoor tanning is “the greatest avoidable known risk factor for skin cancer,” with use of tanning beds before age 35 raising “the risk of melanoma by 59%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%.

We get OK marks on three other prevention metrics:

  • We reach ACS’s middle category by taxing cigarettes at $1.53 per pack. (We could’ve jumped into their top category if Big Tobacco hadn’t counteradvertised IM 25’s buck-a-pack hike to death last year.) Raising taxes on tobacco is the surest way to reduce smoking.
  • We spent $4.5 million a year last fiscal year programs to help adults quit and deter kids from starting. That’s 38.5% of what the CDC recommends… which, remarkably, made us eighth-bets in the nation. Minnesota only spent 32.7% of the CDC’s recommended level. Only four states—Oklahoma, North Dakota, California, and Alaska—spent more than 50% of the CDC level.
  • We earn our only “green” top score with our indoor smoking ban. About half of the country has that much good sense; only Wyoming and several Southern states have failed to enact total bans on smoking in workplaces, restaurants, or bars.

Failing five out of eight categories: I guess we’re betting on clean country living to prevent cancer for us. Maybe that country air helps a little: for all of our policy failings, our cancer incidence rate from 2012 to 2016 was only 1.7% higher than the national rate.


  1. Donald Pay 2019-08-03 10:00

    South Dakota has adopted the Republican health care plan: get sick, stay sick, die early. Call it the “Family First To Die” plan.

  2. Debbo 2019-08-03 15:07

    Yup. GOP values at work. For shame. 😡

  3. Dana P 2019-08-04 08:00

    ‘Pro life’ policies

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