Smoking Cessation Coverage Now Available for All Medicare Patients

(August 31, 2010)

On Wednesday, August 25, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare coverage for seniors trying to quit smoking has been expanded to include everyone on Medicare. Previously, Medicare only offered coverage for tobacco-related counseling for patients whose medical condition is exacerbated by smoking.

The American Lung Association praises CMS’s decision to expand coverage for tobacco cessation counseling to all smokers covered by Medicare.

Medicare’s announcement ensures that all Medicare beneficiaries who smoke – whether they have a medical condition exacerbated by smoking or not – will be provided with tobacco cessation counseling by a physician or other Medicare-recognized provider. The new rules now cover up to two tobacco-cessation counseling sessions annually and as many as four individual sessions per attempt.

While the American Lung Association lauds this latest action, CMS is not providing a comprehensive benefit – or one that covers all 3 forms of counseling as well as all seven FDA-approved medications. The American Lung Association has asked CMS to cover a comprehensive benefit because it has been proven to help the most smokers quit.

Smoking cessation represents the single most important step smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives. Moreover, the U.S. Surgeon General has reported that quitting smoking leads to significant risk reduction for certain diseases and other health benefits, even in older adults who have smoked for years.

“For too long, many tobacco users with Medicare coverage were denied access to evidence-based tobacco cessation counseling,” said Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “Most Medicare beneficiaries want to quit their tobacco use. Now, older adults and other Medicare beneficiaries can get the help they need to successfully overcome tobacco dependence.”

The American Lung Association encourages all Medicare patients who smoke to take advantage of the counseling available to them. With these new rules everyone with Medicare has another reason and additional help to take the important step to quit smoking. For additional information about this new coverage, call 1-800-MEDICARE
(1-800-633-4227).