New Report Finds Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Treatment Coverage Improved in Past Decade, Yet More Work to Be Done to Improve Health

New report co-authored by American Lung Association highlights how Medicaid can better help enrollees beat tobacco addiction

A new article published today in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report finds substantial improvements in state coverage of tobacco cessation treatment from 2008 to 2018, especially coverage of tobacco cessation medications in state Medicaid programs. However, there is still much room for improvement in coverage of counseling and removal of barriers to access cessation treatments in state Medicaid programs. 

The “State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Cessation Treatments and Barriers to Accessing Treatments” article, co-authored by the American Lung Association and CDC was built around data collected by the Lung Association on coverage of tobacco cessation treatment for Medicaid enrollees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

The article finds a powerful opportunity to save lives and improve health, as Medicaid enrollees continue to use tobacco products at a rate much higher than that of privately insured Americans, placing them at increased risk for smoking-related disease and death.

“Coverage of cessation treatments without barriers is critical to improving health and saving lives,” said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “Smoking is a serious addiction, and we should ensure all proven effective tools are available to those seeking to quit. This makes access to cessation coverage through state Medicaid plans essential.”

One of the major conclusions of the 2020 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on smoking cessation is that “insurance coverage for smoking cessation treatment that is comprehensive, barrier-free, and widely promoted increases the use of these treatment services, leads to higher rates of successful quitting, and is cost-effective.” 

The data analyzed in this report shows which states are achieving this goal and which are not. While there was an improvement in Medicaid cessation coverage across the country, a few states showed tremendous progress during this time, including Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina. 

One important policy change during the study period was the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA requires coverage of cessation medications in standard Medicaid programs. This correlates with the increase in coverage during this time period. 

“Tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States,” Wimmer said. “However, lives could be saved if state Medicaid programs improve tobacco cessation success among Medicaid enrollees.”

Guidelines recommend covering all evidence-based cessation treatments, removing barriers that impede access to these treatments, promoting their coverage to Medicaid tobacco users and healthcare providers, and monitoring use of covered treatments.

“The American Lung Association is proud to have contributed to this important resource,” he said. “We are committed to help each smoker quit and to push our public officials at the local, state and federal level to enact proven tobacco control policies, including smokefree workplace laws, increased tobacco taxes, improved quit smoking coverage and product regulation.”

For media interested in speaking with an expert about this article or lung health, tobacco use and tobacco policies and cessation coverage, contact Stephanie Goldina at [email protected] or 312-801-7629.

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