Kentucky Could Save Lives & Money by Helping Smokers Quit

Governor Beshear Commits Funding to Medicaid Smoking Cessation

LOUISVILLE KY (January 12, 2010)

The American Lung Association today released its annual State of Tobacco Control Report and once again Kentucky is falling behind on reducing the terrible burden caused by tobacco use.  Fortunately, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear understands smoking’s devastating impact on our state and has committed to a variety of efforts that will reduce our state’s smoking rate.

The American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control Report looks at how well states do at preventing tobacco use and helping smokers quit.  The report looks at four key areas—smokefree air, tobacco control program funding, cigarette taxes and coverage of tobacco cessation treatments and services. Kentucky earned an F in all four areas.

Kentucky earned an F in cessation coverage because our state government is missing a big opportunity to save lives and money by helping smokers quit.  In 2007, the Kentucky General Assembly wisely passed into law a program which would provide a comprehensive smoking cessation benefit to Kentucky Medicaid beneficiaries. Unfortunately no funding was committed to this program and it has languished as an unfunded mandate for several years.  Funding this program for just $1.5 million—which would bring $3.5 million in federal matching funds to Kentucky Medicaid—would give thousands of Kentuckians a way to quit smoking and save the state millions of dollars in health care costs.

Thankfully, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear recently made a commitment in his State of the Commonwealth Address to provide the necessary funding to help smokers on Medicaid quit smoking through proven cessation methods.  

“The American Lung Association of Kentucky commends the Governor for this important step toward creating a healthier, more smokefree Kentucky,” said Betsy Janes of the American Lung Association of Kentucky. “Governor Beshear recognized that many people want to quit smoking and simply need help to do so.”

By offering a wide variety of tools, such as counseling and medications, this comprehensive program will help thousands of Kentuckians end their tobacco addiction. It will also improve the long-term financial prosperity of the state and is a good investment for Kentucky taxpayers. 

A recent study in Massachusetts shows the real opportunity that we’re missing.  The Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) announced in November that its cessation program has helped 33,000 smokers – 26 percent of its smokers – quit.  There was also a decrease in hospitalization for heart attacks, emergency room visits for asthma, and pregnancy complications.  Kentucky could save thousands of lives, and we all would benefit from the lower healthcare costs if smokers get the help they need to quit. 

Kentucky is one of 6 states that does not provide cessation coverage for its Medicaid beneficiaries.  Kentucky covers some of the treatments for smokers on Medicaid, but not all of them.  Only 16 counties in Kentucky offer Cessation Coverage under Medicaid through Passport Health Plan, a private Medicaid managed care provider operating in the Louisville area.  There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for smokers – they need access to all the treatments proven to help smokers quit. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all seven cessation medications (like the gum and patch) and three types of counseling (group, individual, and phone) be covered.

The American Lung Association of Kentucky, in partnership with the Kentucky Medicaid Smoking Cessation Coalition, will continue to work with the Governor and the General Assembly to ensure this funding is included in the coming biennial budget.

To view the full report and related materials for the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2009 report, visit http://www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org