Alert to Congress – Medicaid Cessation Coverage Works

Medicaid Coverage helps Smokers Quit: Congress should follow Massachusetts’ Lead

(November 20, 2009)

On November 18, Massachusetts released a study showing that comprehensive cessation programs have saved lives and money.  This study comes at a time the U.S. Senate is debating health care reform, including whether or not to cover smoking cessation for Medicaid recipients.  This report should make this decision clear:  comprehensive cessation services should be included in the final health care reform legislation.

In 2006, Massachusetts began providing comprehensive smoking cessation benefits to the approximately 190,000 MassHealth (Medicaid) members who smoked.  The study found that in just over 2 years, 26 percent of MassHealth smokers (33,000 people) quit smoking.  In addition, there was also a tremendous decline in the utilization of other costly healthcare services as a result.   MassHealth saw a:

  • 38 percent decrease in hospitalizations for heart attacks;
  • 17 percent drop in emergency room and clinic visits due to asthma;
  • 17 percent drop in claims for adverse maternal birth complications, including pre-term labor.

By providing comprehensive smoking cessation benefits, including all seven FDA-approved cessation medications and the three types of counseling recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service, to all MassHealth members, they have helped smokers quit and reduced demand on the healthcare system. 

Presently, the vast majority of states are failing to help their smokers quit.  Earlier this month, the American Lung Association released a study finding that only 6 states, including Massachusetts, provide all of the cessation treatments they should.  Most states are missing out on the opportunity to save lives, improve health, and save millions of dollars in healthcare costs. 

Federal policymakers can help fix this by including comprehensive smoking cessation coverage for all Medicaid recipients in health care reform legislation.  Click here to urge your Senator to include smoking cessation coverage in health care reform. 

For more information, read the American Lung Association's new report, Helping Smokers Quit: State Cessation Coverage 2009.