California Business And Health Leaders Say Smoking Cessation Bill Will Save State, Employers And Consumers Millions

Major Health Committee Moves Bill Forward

Sacramento, CA (June 22, 2010)

Senate Bill 220 (Yee) passed out of Assembly Health Committee today and the bill's co-sponsors — the American Lung Association in California, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association — along with other key supporters hailed the bill's passage as an important step toward improving the health of Californians, saving lives and saving the state millions of dollars in health care costs.   

"Tobacco remains the single greatest cause of disease and premature death in America today, and is responsible for 435,000 deaths each year," said Senator Yee. "We know we can prevent these deaths if people have unrestricted access to treatments that will help them successfully quit smoking and that's exactly what my bill does," said Yee.

SB 220 stipulates that all health plans and health insurance policies include coverage of treatments to help patients quit smoking. The bill's sponsors say recent reports show that access to smoking cessation treatments is a significant determinant to whether people successfully quit and that the savings for the state, employers and consumers are immediate.

"SB 220 won't cost the state a dime, and will save the state, employers and consumers millions," said  Paul Knepprath of the American Lung Association in California. "According to the California Health Benefits Review Program, SB 220 does not increase costs for Medi-Cal HMOs, Healthy Families, and CalPERS HMOs, and would reduce smoking and its associated economic costs."

"The analysis estimates that 8,081 health plan members would successfully quit smoking each year as a result of SB 220, equating to a total savings of more than $45.5 million annually," said Knepprath.

Dr. Diane Sobkowicz, Board President of the American Heart Association, said,

"To stop this deadly habit, smokers need access to treatments that work. SB 220 could double or triple the rate of successful quit attempts by requiring that health insurers provide coverage for smoking cessation."

"The sooner we start giving patients the tools they need to quit smoking, the sooner we will save more lives and dollars," said Jennie Cook, former National Board Chair of the American Cancer Society. "Studies consistently show health care savings from smoking cessation programs. A recent study of Massachusetts, which provides benefits similar to those proposed in SB 220, concluded that the use of cessation resources can lead to significant health improvements in one year or less," said Cook.

"As one of the state's largest provider groups, we take very seriously efforts to impose mandates on health benefits plans. In fact, we have historically not supported coverage mandates out of concern that they would increase health care costs for consumers – our patients – without improving health outcomes, but we're here in support of SB 220 because the facts are irrefutable that when people have unrestricted access to cessation treatments they are more likely to successfully quit smoking, thereby saving lives and reducing health care costs. It's as simple as that," said Bill Barcellona, vice president of California Association of Physician Groups.

 "Only childhood immunizations have a better return on investment than smoking cessation treatments and tobacco cessation is more cost-effective than other commonly covered disease-prevention interventions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol treatment and routine cancer screenings (such as mammography and colonoscopy)," said Julian Canete, executive director of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

"There are about 3.8 million current adult smokers in California. Their tobacco addiction costs California $8.6 billion annually in direct medical care and lost productivity," said Aubry Stone, president of the California Black Chamber of Commerce. "A 2009 National Business Coalition on Health report clearly concluded that tobacco cessation is one of the most cost-effective activities an employer can implement to improve the health and productivity of their employees while reducing health care costs," said Stone.

According to the bill's sponsors, SB 220 is the final step in closing the gap that currently exists in California's smoking cessation policy:

·  Medi-Cal, which covers 2.6 million adults subject to the mandate (13.8%), already provides comprehensive smoking cessation benefits at no charge to enrollees.

·  More than half the state's health plans currently cover some type of smoking cessation treatments.

·  Federal health reform requires all new plans to cover smoking cessation at no cost to patients beginning January 2011.

"SB 220 represents the fundamental belief that people with smoking addiction deserve health coverage that provides them access to treatments to help them successfully quit smoking for good and we will take every measure to ensure the Legislature passes and the governor signs this legislation," concluded Senator Yee.