American Lung Association wants Smoking Cessation Coverage in Your Health Plan

March 1, 2010

Whille the debate over health insurance reform rages on, one topic not being highlighted is coverage for smoking cessation programs. According to the American Lung Association, such a program is a key strategy in the battle to reduce tobacco usage, and the health issues that result from it.

In a report released last November, “Helping Smokers Quit: State Cessation Coverage 2009,” the ALA provided an overview of various services and treatments offered in each state, by both private and public health care plans. At present, the report says, only six states provide comprehensive smoking cessation coverage for Medicaid recipients, and only five provide such coverage to state employees.

ALA president and CEO, Charles D. Connor said in a press release, at the time the report was made public, “Helping smokers across the country quit must be an integral part of any reformed health care system. Policy makers at the federal and state levels have a responsibility right now to ensure that the nearly 46 million smokers in this country have the help they need to quit.”

Added American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Norman H. Edelan, M.D., “The addiction to tobacco is extremely deadly and costly. The single most important thing a smoker can do to improve his or her health is to quit smoking, which may take multiple tries and various treatments to stop using tobacco products for good.”

In addition to the fact that tobacco kills roughly 443,000 people in there are surveys which show several reasons for quitting, and for providing coverage to help people quit. They include:

  1. Studies have shown that smokers’ lives are more than 13 years shorter than non-smokers’.
  2. Quitting smoking saves hundreds of dollars in health care premiums.
  3. Helping people quit has the potential to save thousands of dollars in health care expenditures, per smoker
  4. Helping people quit helps save lives.
  5. Surveys show that 70% of tobacco users want to stop using tobacco.

Connor emphasizes, “All public and private health care plans should fully cover ALL FDA approved tobacco cessation treatments recommended by federal clinical practice guidelines. The American Lung Association urges Congress and the President to ensure all smokers are provided with comprehensive coverage for cessation treatments in any health care reform proposal that becomes law.”

What does comprehensive coverage entail? According to the ALA, it should include:

  • Easy access to the seven cessation medications
  • Access to the three forms of nicotine addiction counseling recommended by U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The American Lung Association recommends that private insurance plans offer comprehensive cessation coverage and also encourages states to require all insurance companies to cover these treatments. Currently, only seven states (Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and Rhode Island) have such requirements. It is believed that the lack of coverage leaves smokers who wish to quit, left without clinically proven cessation treatments.

Dr. Edelman explains, “”Smoking is extremely addictive for most people and quitting ‘cold turkey’ generally isn’t effective. The majority of smokers need help quitting. Unfortunately, smokers don’t always have easy access to these treatments and face barriers to coverage like costly co-pays and limitations on the duration of treatments.”

And Connor re-iterates, “Helping more Americans quit smoking remains a top public health priority for the American Lung Association. Quitting smoking also has economic benefits. Savings on smoking-related medical expenses benefit smokers, insurance companies, employers, and governments. We are here to provide expert support and proven resources that have helped more than one million people quit smoking for good.”