AUGUSTA, ME | September 16, 2015
Today, the American Lung Association released a new case study highlighting the strategic legislative action that was taken in the state of Maine to successfully expand tobacco cessation coverage among the state’s Medicaid population. The case study, “Comprehensive Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Coverage in Maine: A Case Study in Legislative Action to Improve Health,” serves as a blueprint for other states that are looking to improve the health of their residents by reducing tobacco use.
“This case study is an important look at how thousands of Mainers now have access to treatments to help quit their addiction to tobacco,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “While no two states ever face the exact same circumstances, we hope that by sharing the story of what was accomplished in Maine, we could see similar public health victories across the country.”
In the fall of 2012, Gov. Paul LePage drastically cut the state of Maine’s Medicaid smoking cessation benefit and chose instead to provide the bare minimum of coverage that was required under federal law. As a result of LePage’s action, benefits were eliminated for all Medicaid recipients except pregnant women. In response, public health advocates, led by the American Lung Association in Maine and its partners, protested this proposal that impacted Maine’s most vulnerable citizens who use tobacco at an alarming rate of over 40 percent.
Recognizing the importance of restoring the benefit, but also the difficult political circumstances, the advocates began a multi-year strategic response to restore smoking cessation services to the entire MaineCare population. The result of this work was the near unanimous approval in June 2013 in the Maine State Legislature of a measure that restored and improved the MaineCare tobacco cessation benefit to now cover all FDA-approved medications as well as counseling without cost to clients. Following a veto by Governor LePage, the legislature overrode the veto in January 2014 with strong bipartisan support, and the bill became law.
“In a difficult climate, we were able to realize a significant public health victory because we had a well-thought-out strategy and a consistent and compelling message that resonated with legislators on both sides of the aisle,” said Lance Boucher, Director, Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Maine. “Working with our key partners, we successfully demonstrated that by restoring the benefit we could achieve fiscal responsibility and improved public health at the same time. Hopefully, others can learn from our approach and have the same success in their state capitols.”
At a time when state legislatures across the country have often not proactively added Medicaid coverage, the American Lung Association found the Maine story to be unique and worthy of sharing with public health advocates across the country. “Comprehensive Medicaid Tobacco Cessation in Maine: A Case Study in Legislative Action to Improve Health,” relies on interviews conducted with lawmakers, advocates and lobbyists to demonstrate how with a comprehensive strategy, significant education and a solid message change can be accomplished through the legislative process.
“This case study highlighting Maine’s successful campaign to give low income smokers the help they need to quit is an important example to other states,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “We commend the Maine legislature for its bold, bipartisan action to save lives and money, and we encourage other states to follow Maine’s lead.”
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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