Cancer Policy News from the Wisconsin Cancer Collaborative | June 2020
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Gov. Evers renews efforts to expand Medicaid
Citing health disparities among Black and Latinx communities, Gov. Tony Evers announced last Thursday he is renewing his call to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin. 

“One of the most important ways we can help work to address these racial disparities in health outcomes is by accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid,” Gov. Evers told reporters . “Not only would we be able to provide healthcare coverage for tens of thousands of people, but we would reinvest in our healthcare systems and local public health systems.”

Evers noted that Wisconsin ranks among the worst in the United States for disparate health outcomes for people of color—a trend also seen in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Evers noted that African Americans make up 6 percent of the state’s population but account for 19 percent of COVID-19 cases and 25 percent of COVID-19 deaths. The Latinx community makes up 7 percent of the state’s population but accounts for 34 percent of total COVID-19 cases and 25 percent of deaths. 

Evers previously proposed expanding Medicaid in his 2019-2021 budget blueprint, but the plan was rejected in 2019 by the state legislature.
Alcohol sales restrictions ease during COVID-19, creating possible long-term health risks
A new interpretation of existing state law recently gave bars and restaurants expanded power to sell carry-out alcoholic beverages.

Retailers with Class B beer licenses can sell to-go alcohol packaged in originally sealed containers. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this excluded growlers of beer.

In late March, the state implemented its “safer at home” order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This order prevented dine-in bar and restaurant service but allowed the sale of carry-out food and beverages.

Following that order, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, which oversees alcohol licensing, released new guidance to retailers , allowing the sale of beer growlers for off-site consumption under existing law. 
Why this matters
Alcohol consumption can cause at least seven types of cancer. Policies that discourage excessive drinking are an important part of cancer prevention. 

The easing of alcohol sales restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to an overall increase in alcohol consumption rates. Researchers have found that people who drink more alcohol during a crisis tend to maintain that level of alcohol consumption once the crisis has ended.

For example, researchers investigating alcohol consumption levels following hurricanes Katrina and Rita found that people who drank more during those crises did not revert to their previous, lower, levels of alcohol consumption once the crises had passed. 
Pandemic slows progress on Tobacco 21 legislation
The legislative momentum to raise Wisconsin’s legal tobacco purchase age has stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In February, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed AB 422 to raise the sales and purchase age for tobacco and vapor products from 18 years to the federal minimum age of 21. 

Weeks later, a state Senate committee approved its version of the bill , SB 364, clearing the way for a final Senate vote originally planned for late March. However, the Senate’s progress halted as the coronavirus began to spread more widely, causing the Senate to postpone its final approval of SB 364 and about 150 other pieces of legislation. 

The state Senate has not announced when it plans to reconvene. Notably, neither the Assembly nor Senate version of Tobacco 21 legislation would require vapor retailers to be licensed by the state.
Other Highlights
As communities begin to reopen, the Wisconsin Cancer Collaborative has released a one-page statement, Social Distancing and Cancer Patients , to help local governments and businesses protect cancer patients from the ongoing risks associated with COVID-19. 

The Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Wisconsin has released new information on tobacco prevention and control during COVID-19.

Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers has produced a COVID-19 community toolkit for patients and community members, with resources in English and Spanish.
For more COVID-19 and cancer resources, visit
Formerly known as the Wisconsin Cancer Council.  Here’s why we changed our name .