American Lung Association Applauds Passage of U.S. Senate Healthcare Bill

--Conferees Urged to Include Cessation Benefits for all Medicaid Recipients--

(December 24, 2009)

Statement of Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO:

The American Lung Association applauds the Senate for passage of healthcare legislation that will provide health insurance for millions more Americans, including those with lung diseases.  

The Lung Association strongly believes prevention and wellness are the foundations of effective healthcare reform.  While by no means perfect, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as passed by the Senate is an important step forward in saving lives by providing positive incentives for individuals to be actively engaged in their healthcare. By fostering an environment that supports healthy people and placing a high priority on eliminating health disparities, the demand for medical care will be reduced. 

We are particularly pleased the Senate healthcare bill contains wellness provisions, including grant opportunities for community-based wellness and prevention efforts.  We believe these efforts will improve health and prevent chronic diseases, such as lung disease, which affects more than 35.4 million Americans, and is the third leading cause of death.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes significant steps toward reducing the terrible burden caused by tobacco use in the United States, but the legislation does not require tobacco cessation benefits for individuals enrolled in Medicaid who want to quit smoking.  As the House and Senate work to reconcile their bills, the American Lung Association calls upon conferees to ensure that the final legislation ensures all Medicaid recipients have access to comprehensive, easily-accessible tobacco cessation benefits. 

Helping more Americans quit smoking remains a top public health priority for the American Lung Association. Tobacco kills 443,000 people in this country each year and tobacco-related diseases are responsible for $196 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36.6 percent of Medicaid recipients smoke, as opposed to 22.6 percent of the total adult population. Our recent report Helping Smokers Quit: State Cessation Coverage 2009, found that currently only six states provide comprehensive smoking cessation coverage for Medicaid recipients.

A recent study from Massachusetts confirms the efficacy of providing comprehensive cessation benefits to all Medicaid recipients. Smoking rates for beneficiaries in the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) have dropped 26 percent since the state implemented its comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit in July 2006. This represents a total of 33,000 fewer smokers. Utilization of other costly health care services also declined, including fewer hospitalizations for heart attacks, fewer emergency room visits for asthma attacks and a drop in claims for adverse maternal health complications. Massachusetts has demonstrated how lives and health care dollars can be saved when comprehensive cessation benefits are provided to the entire Medicaid population.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have taken steps at reducing chronic disease and health care costs through the passage of their separate bills.  By ensuring that the final health care reform law includes these critical tobacco cessation provisions for Medicaid beneficiaries, they will save even more lives. 

To learn more about the American Lung Association's fight to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, visit www.lung.org.