New Report Shows Policies Needed to Help Smokers Quit

(December 3, 2012)

The American Lung Association's just- released annual report "Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2012," finds that the federal and state governments still need to do more to help smokers quit; despite the reality that helping smokers quit saves both lives and money.

The report looks at each state's tobacco cessation coverage and provides an up-to-date review of federal coverage and requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Major findings of the report indicate that the federal government has missed several opportunities to provide better cessation coverage, and that state coverage varies widely.

"We know that the vast majority of smokers want to quit, but the complex web of state and federal coverage for effective quit smoking programs and treatments prevents too many from getting the help they need," said Paul G. Billings, Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Education at the American Lung Association. "States and the federal government can reduce the enormous health burden of tobacco use by providing access to these proven interventions."

Some key findings of the report:

Medicaid

  • Only two states offered full cessation benefits to enrollees: Indiana and Massachusetts.
  • Alabama and Georgia offered NO cessation coverage for their Medicaid recipients.

State Employee Health Plan Coverage

  • Four states provided comprehensive cessation coverage: Illinois, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Rhode Island.
  • Four states added new cessation benefits in 2012: Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, and New Jersey.

"Too many states are not providing the needed coverage and others are cutting it," added Billings.

Despite efforts made by some state health plans, more remains to be done in order to ensure that all smokers wanting to quit have the available resources and coverage to do so.

On November 26, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed rule that requires the Essential Health Benefit coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act to cover preventive services, including tobacco cessation. However, because HHS has not yet defined what insurers must include as part of a tobacco cessation benefit, the Administration missed a crucial opportunity. Now, each state can choose its own benchmark plan, which will then serve as the Essential Health Benefit standard for plans in that state's health insurance exchange. Until HHS officially defines a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit, it will be missing a crucial opportunity to provide many smokers with new access to help quitting, and to establish tobacco cessation as a truly essential health benefit for all health insurance coverage.

Helping smokers quit saves lives and curbs healthcare costs. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The annual economic costs in the U.S. due to tobacco total $193 billion. Every smoker should have easy access to the help they need to quit smoking, and states and the federal government have a responsibility to enact public policies that reach this goal. Now is the time for policymakers to ensure all smokers have help quitting.

"Giving all smokers access to a comprehensive cessation benefit is not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do," said Billings. "The bottom line is that quitting smoking saves lives and saves money."

Find out what your state does to help smokers quit.