Helping Smokers Quit: Opportunities Created by the Affordable Care Act | American Lung Association

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Helping Smokers Quit: Opportunities Created by the Affordable Care Act

(November 19, 2014)

Tobacco users have more options to help them quit, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Policies implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) give healthcare providers and public health professionals several new opportunities to encourage and help smokers to quit, according to a commentary published in the New England Journal Medicine. The commentary, authored by respected tobacco control experts highlights areas of the law that change what treatments are available to smokers who want to quit and opportunities for increasing the impact of these changes.

The ACA requires various types of insurance plans to cover tobacco cessation, giving more people access to treatments to help them quit tobacco. This information is crucial for healthcare providers and others who work directly with smokers so they can help smokers choose the right, evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment for them. Quitting is not a one-size-fits-all process, and smokers who want to quit need access to all recommended tobacco cessation treatments through their health insurance plans. The authors provide details on these ACA requirements, including:

  • Guidance issued by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Treasury further explaining the preventive services requirement surrounding tobacco cessation treatment coverage. Fully implementing this guidance will ensure many smokers have access to a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit. This requirement applies to private insurance plans (that aren’t grandfathered in), any plan sold in the Exchanges and Medicaid Expansion. Learn more about the guidance.
  • Provisions requiring state Medicaid programs to not exclude tobacco cessation medications from coverage as of January 1, 2014. Learn more about this requirement.
  • Requirement that all state Medicaid programs cover a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit for pregnant women. Learn more about this requirement.
  • Provisions allowing insurance plans to charge tobacco users more in insurance premiums – which unfortunately may cause health insurance to be unaffordable for tobacco users. Learn more about provisions.
  • Requirements that Medicare patients who smoke and are not already showing symptoms of a tobacco-related disease be provided help to quit smoking with no cost.

The authors conclude that “comprehensive, barrier-free, widely promoted tobacco-cessation coverage makes it easier for smokers to quit and for physicians to help them do so…If the ACA's tobacco cessation provisions are fully implemented, they could turn out to be one of its greatest legacies.”

Read the article in the New England Journal of Medicine »

For more information and Lung Association resources about the cessation guidance, please visit

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