Health Care Reform Is Opportunity to Help More Smokers Quit

December 03, 2012

Too many states currently fall short in requiring Medicaid and private health insurance coverage for treatments to help smokers quit.  The federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, presents a tremendous opportunity to expand coverage and help more smokers quit – but only if federal and state authorities effectively implement and enforce the law.

These are the conclusions of a report released today by the American Lung Association, titled Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2012.

“When it comes to policies that help smokers quit, the United States now finds itself at a tipping point,” the report concludes.  “As major changes are being made to how healthcare is delivered and paid for in this country, there is great opportunity to incorporate tobacco cessation treatment as a key to preventing deadly diseases and rapidly rising healthcare costs.”

The health reform law expanded tobacco cessation coverage under Medicaid and private insurance plans.  It requires new private insurance plans to provide coverage for proven preventive health services, including tobacco cessation, without cost-sharing.

But many health insurance plans are failing to provide the mandated coverage, according to a study of health insurance plans just released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In that study, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute experts found that many health insurance plans are rife with confusing and conflicting language about what cessation treatments are covered.  It also found that many policies have gaps in coverage for cessation counseling and medication, and some include cost-sharing requirements that appear to conflict with the law.

The report recommended that federal and state regulators give insurers detailed guidance on what tobacco cessation coverage is required.

'The Affordable Care Act recognized that coverage for preventive care, including helping people quit tobacco, is a critical part of improving health and reducing health care costs in our country,' said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'Tobacco use is a leading risk factor for cancer, heart and lung disease and other serious chronic conditions. Covering effective tobacco cessation treatments is a smart way for insurers to avoid the cost of future illness, and it is the law.'