States Urged to Fill Gap in Helping Smokers
TUESDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. health care reform
law offers help to the majority of smokers who are trying to quit,
but states need to bridge coverage gaps to ensure that all smokers
have access to smoking cessation treatments, a new American Lung
Association report suggests.
There are two main areas where the health care overhaul leaves
large gaps in helping smokers get access to cessation treatments,
according to the report, which was released Tuesday.
The first gap affects Medicaid recipients. While the new federal
law mandates cessation treatment coverage for pregnant women
enrolled in Medicaid, that requirement applies to fewer than 1
million out of the approximately 58 million Medicaid recipients.
The smoking rate among people enrolled in Medicaid is more than 60
percent higher than the rate in the general population, the lung
association noted in its news release.
The second gap affects people on private insurance plans. The
new law requires the majority of private health plans, which cover
64 percent of Americans, to cover smoking cessation treatments.
However, the federal government hasn't issued guidance on what
private insurers must cover. Until that happens, insurers may not
provide comprehensive coverage.
According to the lung association, comprehensive coverage means
easy access to seven medications and three types of counseling
recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
These include over-the-counter (patch, gum, lozenge) and
prescription (patch, nasal spray, inhaler) nicotine replacement
therapies; two non-nicotine prescription drugs called bupropion and
varenicline; and individual, group and phone counseling.
To bridge major coverage gaps, states need to provide smoking
cessation treatments to all adults enrolled in Medicaid and should
require all private health plans to cover all smoking cessation
treatments, the report stated.
Currently, eight states have laws or insurance regulations that
require smoking cessation coverage in some or all private insurance
plans: Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota,
Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Six states provide comprehensive smoking cessation coverage for
Medicaid recipients: Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada,
Oregon and Pennsylvania. The report also noted that Kentucky has
approved funding to cover smoking cessation treatments for Medicaid
recipients, and Hawaii requires managed-care organizations that
contract with its Medicaid program to provide near-comprehensive
coverage of smoking cessation treatments.
Five states provide comprehensive smoking cessation coverage to
all state employees and dependents: Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New
Mexico and North Dakota. Some smoking cessation coverage is
provided for state employees in Montana, Nebraska and Florida.
"With federal health care reform taking effect, states have a historic opportunity today to ensure that all smokers have easy access to treatments that can help them quit," Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in the news release.
"This is a win-win formula," he added. "Quitting smoking not only saves smokers' health, it curbs the health costs that drain our state treasuries. Giving all smokers access to a comprehensive cessation benefit now is the right thing to do, and it's the smart thing to do."
The American Cancer Society offers a
guide to quitting smoking.
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