Cessation Coverage Now Available for All Medicare Patients

Lifesaving Benefit Falls Short of Comprehensive Benefits
Statement of the American Lung Association

(August 26, 2010)

The American Lung Association welcomes the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) decision to expand coverage for tobacco cessation counseling to all smokers covered by Medicare, but is disappointed that these smokers will still not be provided a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit. 

Medicare’s announcement will ensure that all Medicare beneficiaries who smoke – not just those diagnosed with a recognized tobacco-related disease or showing signs or symptoms of such a disease – will be provided with tobacco cessation counseling by a physician (or other Medicare-recognized provider).  While expanding this coverage to everyone on Medicare is an important step that the American Lung Association applauds, CMS failed to follow the cessation coverage recommendations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

According to HHS’ own U.S. Public Health Service Guideline, Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence, tobacco users should have access to all treatments that are proven effective to help them quit, including all three types of counseling: individual, group and phone. Tobacco users and their physicians should be able to choose the treatment that is right for them. 

In this latest action, CMS states it will cover only individual counseling.   As CMS implements provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the American Lung Association urges the agency to implement comprehensive cessation benefits as defined in Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. 

In June, the Lung Association and our partners submitted comments to CMS, asking them to implement comprehensive benefits as recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service Guideline. 

Smoking cessation represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.  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.

The American Lung Association urges all Medicare patients who smoke to take advantage of the counseling available to them.  Everyone with Medicare can and should take the important step to quit smoking. For additional information about this new coverage, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

The American Lung Association is dedicated to helping smokers quit.  For additional resources and in-depth information on smoking cessation, visit www.lung.org/stop-smoking/.