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Improved Medicaid Benefits Could Help with Quitting

Update Date: Mar 07, 2014 10:44 AM EST
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Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death within the United States. Due to the many health consequences cigarettes cause for both smokers and nonsmokers, researchers have continued to try to find ways of getting smokers to quit and preventing others from starting. In a new study, researchers analyzed the relationship between Medicaid coverage for tobacco dependence treatment and people's likelihood of quitting. They reported that when coverage was improved upon, Medicaid users were more likely to quit smoking.

According to the background information provided by the study, Medicaid users are 68 percent more likely to be smokers when compared to the general population in the U.S. In the study, the researchers used information provided by the Current Population Survey from 2001 to 2011. The survey reached 3,071 adult participants on Medicaid from 28 states. The participants all smoked within the year prior to the survey. From this group of adults, 41 percent attempted to quit smoking with only seven percent of them doing so successfully.

The team compared different types of Medicaid coverage for tobacco dependence treatment. Even though coverage varied by stated, there were four provisions that remained the same due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Two of these provisions included coverage for full tobacco dependence treatment without copayment for pregnant women and tobacco-cessation drugs. The researchers focused on the differences between Medicaid coverage and found that in states where the insurance covered counseling without copayment and pharmacotherapy with copayment had a quitting rate of 8.3 percent. People from states that did not offer these benefits had a quitting rate between four and 5.6 percent.

"The quit rate was two points higher in the states with the most generous tobacco dependence treatment coverage, and two points lower in states where there was no coverage," said lead author Jessica Greene, Ph.D., professor at George Washington University School of Medicine reported by Medical Xpress.

The researchers stated that improving upon Medicaid benefits could help smokers quit successfully. Greene stated that with more generous coverage, the quit rate could increase past nine percent.

"States that offer less than full coverage for smoking cessation are probably being penny wise and pound-foolish as they will eventually have to pay for the smoking related illness which those who don't quit will incur down the line," Norman Edelman, MD, senior medical advisor at the American Lung Association, added.

The study, "The impact of tobacco dependence treatment coverage and copayments in Medicaid," was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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