CDC Study Finds Many State Medicaid Programs Lack Smoking Cessation Programs
A lack of access to smoking cessation programs and the costs of such treatment are "major barriers" for low-income people who are trying to quit smoking, a new CDC study has found. In a survey of Medicaid coverage of "tobacco-dependence treatment," the CDC found that, although smoking cessation programs are "effective," 17 states did not cover any tobacco treatments through their Medicaid programs last year. The remaining 33 states and the District of Columbia offered "some" smoking cessation coverage, but only Oregon's Medicaid program covered all the cessation treatments recommended by the Public Health Service, including both counseling and medication ("State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Dependence Treatments", 11/9). The survey indicated that 13 states cover counseling services, 31 states cover prescription drug treatment for smoking cessation and 23 states cover over-the-counter drugs (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids release, 11/8). The study also found that 36% of Medicaid beneficiaries smoked in 2000, a rate roughly 50% higher than that of the overall U.S. population. The study noted that tobacco treatment is "one of the most cost-effective prevention services" because it reduces the incidence of tobacco-related disease and related care costs (State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Dependence Treatments, 11/9). For example, by covering smoking cessation for pregnant women, Medicaid can reduce the number of low-birthweight infants, who incur higher medical costs (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids release, 11/8). Therefore, the study recommends that Medicaid programs cover all recommended pharmaceutical and counseling treatments to help people quit smoking ("State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Dependence Treatments", 11/9).
In response to the study, the American Cancer Society said that "greater [health] coverage is likely to increase" the utilization of cessation programs, which will result in more "successful" attempts to quit smoking (American Cancer Society release, 11/8). The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is using the study to push for legislation that would require Medicaid to cover smoking cessation services. Matthew Myers, president of the campaign, said, "Providing Medicaid coverage for smoking cessation products and services is a smart investment that will save lives and money. [This] study is a wake-up call to Congress to pass comprehensive cessation coverage under Medicaid." Legislation (S 854) to provide a comprehensive smoking cessation benefit through Medicaid's core benefit package has been introduced by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids release, 11/8).
In related news, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that while 46 states signed a $246 billion settlement with the tobacco industry three years ago to recoup funds spent on tobacco-related health care expenses, only 5% of the settlement is being used for smoking cessation and prevention programs. Only six states are spending the amount of money for such programs recommended by the CDC. For example, Louisiana, which the CDC ranks 47th among the states in funding tobacco programs, spends about $500,000 a year on cessation programs out of the $140 million the state receives annually from the settlement. The Times-Picayune reports that "budget shortfalls" in states across the country have prompted legislatures to use "hundreds of millions of dollars" in tobacco settlement payments to cover their deficits (Maggi, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 11/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.