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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
American Lung Association Report Says U.S. at Tipping Point
for Policies that Help Smokers Quit
Coverage in Wisconsin is strong on some fronts, falls short on others
Brookfield, WI – The United States is at a tipping point when it comes to policies that help
smokers quit, according to the American Lung Association’s report. Released today, the annual report provides a
comprehensive review of each state’s tobacco cessation coverage and an up-to-date look at
federal coverage and requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
“Over the next year key decisions will be made by the federal government and the states
about whether or not they will help save lives, prevent disease and reduce health costs,”
said Sue Swan, Executive Director at the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “We
know that the vast majority of smokers want to quit, but too many are still not getting the
help they need. States and the federal government can reduce the enormous health burden
of tobacco use by providing access to proven interventions.”
The American Lung Association report shows that the federal government has missed
several key opportunities to improve access to quit smoking medications and counseling.
The record for the states is mixed. Wisconsin provides good coverage for Medicaid
recipients, but still underfunds the state Quitline, the main sources of cessation counseling
for most smokers. This leads to reduced coverage and limited ability for smokers to access
the service. Wisconsin’s coverage:
– provides coverage for all NRTs (nicotine replacement therapies) except for the
NRT lozenge. Chantix and Zyban, both requiring a physician’s prescription, are covered.
Group counseling varies by plan. State Employee Health plan
– covers all NRTs except gum and lozenges as well as
Chantix and Zyban. Does not include group or phone counseling, although free counseling
is available through the Quitline and the American Lung Association HelpLine. Quitline
– The Quitline is funded at 73 cents per smoker. The Centers for Disease Control
recommends $10.53 per smoker. Federal Coverage:
On November 26, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed rule that requires the Essential Health Benefit coverage mandated by the
Helping Smokers Quit – page two
Affordable Care Act to cover preventive services, including tobacco cessation. However,
because HHS has not yet defined what insurers must include as part of a tobacco
cessation benefit, the Administration missed a crucial opportunity. Now, each state can
choose its own benchmark plan, which will then serve as the Essential Health Benefit
standard for plans in that state’s health insurance exchange. Until HHS officially defines
a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit, it has missed a crucial opportunity to
provide many smokers with new access to help quitting, and to establish tobacco
cessation as a truly essential health benefit for all health insurance coverage.
HHS’s failure to act provides an opportunity for states, according to the report.
Policymakers can now help smokers quit by including comprehensive tobacco cessation
benefits as they implement state health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The economic costs in the U.S. due to tobacco total $193 billion annually; in Wisconsin tobacco use costs $4.5 billion annually. Providing comprehensive quit-smoking treatments is crucial in both saving lives and curbing health costs – one recent study showed that providing this help has a 3-to-1 return on investment. “Giving all smokers access to a comprehensive cessation benefit is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” said Swan. “The bottom line is that quitting smoking saves lives and saves money.”
Available as a standalone graphic is — the American Lung Association’s breakdown of what the biggest health
insurance programs cover for tobacco cessation and how the Affordable Care Act changes
About the American Lung Association in Wisconsin:
Our mission is to save lives by
improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the
American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy.
For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does,
call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.LungWI.org.
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