Access to Cessation Services | American Lung Association
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Access to Cessation Services

The Access to Cessation Services grading system sets targets for states and awards points in three areas:

  1. Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation treatments
  2. State Employee Health Plan coverage of tobacco cessation treatments
  3. The Investment per Smoker each state makes in its quitline, a service available in all states that provides tobacco cessation counseling over the phone.

Bonus points were available in two other target areas, Standards for Private Insurance and Tobacco Surcharges.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Service published an update to its Clinical Practice Guideline on Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. This Guideline, based on a thorough review of scientific evidence on tobacco cessation, recommends several treatment options that have proven effective in helping people quit smoking. These options include the use of five nicotine-replacement therapies (gum, patch, lozenge, nasal spray, inhaler), bupropion (generic) or Zyban (brand name) and varenicline (non-nicotine medications), and three types of counseling (individual, group and phone). It also recommends that all public and private health insurance plans cover the cessation treatments recommended in the Guideline. Targets established in the Medicaid, State Employee Health Plan and Standards for Private Insurance categories were based on these Public Health Service Guideline recommendations for cessation treatments.

In the 2014 Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs document, discussed previously in the Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending section above, the CDC establishes benchmarks for quitlines that are funded at the recommended levels. Grading in this section is based on the amount of funding provided to the state quitline for services divided by the number of smokers in the state.

In 2015, the Lung Association incorporated information on what tobacco cessation treatments are provided to the Medicaid expansion population into this grade. Points awarded in the Medicaid Coverage section below incorporate this information. If a state has not opted to expand Medicaid up to the levels established in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the state receives an automatic deduction of 5 points to represent the tobacco users that do not have access to cessation treatments because of this decision. Points available in the Medicaid coverage section have been increased to 40 to represent new Medicaid expansion enrollees. The Lung Association also added 2 bonus points available to states who prohibit or limit tobacco surcharges, or health insurance policies that charge tobacco users more in premiums than non-tobacco users. States have the ability to limit or remove these surcharges.

All data in the Cessation section of "State of Tobacco Control" 2017 was collected and analyzed by the American Lung Association. This grading category replaced youth access laws as a grading category in the "State of Tobacco Control 2008" report.

The cessation grades are based on the maximum number of total points, a score of 70, assigned according to the categories described in detail below. Over half of the points (40 points total) under the Access to Cessation Services section are awarded for coverage under a state's Medicaid program. This weighting is due to the much higher smoking rates among the Medicaid population than among the general population, as well as the need to cover treatments to help low-income smokers quit. Twenty points total are awarded for the investment per smoker in the state's quitline and 10 points total are awarded for State Employee Health Plan coverage.

The score of 70 serves as the denominator, and the state's total points serves as the numerator to calculate a percentage score. Grades were given following a standard grade-school system using that percentage score.

The grades break down as follows:


Points Earned


63 to 70


56 to 62


49 to 55


42 to 48


41 and under

Key to Cessation Coverage Ratings by Category:

Medicaid Coverage (40 points):1

Target is barrier-free coverage of all Guideline-recommended medications and counseling for the state's entire Medicaid population (including the Medicaid expansion population).

  1. States receive up to 14 points for coverage of medications: 1 point for coverage of each of the 7 medications, and an additional point per medication if ALL Medicaid enrollees have coverage of that medication;
  2. States receive up to 13 points for coverage of counseling: 1 point for covering any counseling for all members, and 2 points for each type of counseling covered (individual, group and phone). Two additional points per type of counseling were given if ALL Medicaid enrollees have coverage of that type of counseling;
  3. States receive up to 13 points for providing coverage without barriers: 1 to 3 points are deducted for each barrier to coverage that exists in a state. Deductions vary based on type of barrier and severity.
  4. If a state has not expanded Medicaid coverage up to the levels established in the ACA (138 percent of the federal poverty level for all eligibility categories), 5 points are automatically deducted from the Medicaid coverage score.

State Employee Health Plan Coverage (10 points)

Target is barrier-free coverage of all Guideline-recommended medications and counseling for all of a state's employees and dependents.

  1. 0 to 4 points are given for coverage of medications; deductions were made if only some health plans/managed care organizations provide coverage;
  2. 0 to 4 points are given for coverage of counseling; deductions were made if only some health plans/managed care organizations provide coverage;
  3. 0 to 2 points are given if coverage is free of barriers.

Quitlines (20 points)

States are graded based on a curve set by the average investment per smoker, which in 2017 was $3.46 per smoker.2 Points are awarded based on the scale below:

$$ Per Smoker


> $6.92


$5.19 – $6.91


$3.46– $5.18


$1.73– $3.45


< $1.72


Standards for Private Insurance Coverage (up to 5 bonus points)

Target is a legislative or regulatory standard requiring coverage of all PHS-recommended medications and counseling in private insurance plans within the state.

  1. 1 point given for the presence of a legislative or regulatory private insurance standard or if a state insurance commissioner issues a bulletin on the enforcement of the tobacco cessation FAQ issued by the federal government3;
  2. 0 to 2 points given for required coverage of medications;
  3. 0 to 2 points given for required coverage of counseling.

Tobacco Surcharges (up to 2 bonus points)

Target is a state policy prohibiting small group and individual health insurance plans from charging tobacco users higher premiums than non-tobacco users. States are able to prohibit this practice or limit these surcharges to amounts smaller than federal law allows, which is 50 percent.

  1. 2 points given if state prohibits tobacco surcharges; OR
  2. 1 point given if state limits tobacco surcharges to less than 50 percent of the premium charged to non-tobacco users.
  • Sources
    1. As of January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required that state Medicaid programs no longer exclude coverage of tobacco cessation medications. In State of Tobacco Control 2015 a state was only given credit for covering tobacco cessation medications if there is documentable evidence that the Medicaid program is covering that medication, regardless of the federal requirement.
    2. The average investment per smoker of $3.46 does not include the figure from Minnesota or South Carolina. Minnesota's quitline is legally prohibited from providing service to anyone except the uninsured and underinsured. South Carolina did not provide any information on the funding of their quitline.
    3. On May 2, 2014, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury issued an FAQ that clarified what health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act should cover in terms of tobacco cessation medications and counseling, (see question 5).
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