CHARLESTON - West Virginia policymakers have the opportunity to help smokers quit by including comprehensive tobacco cessation benefits as they implement state health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act, according to the American Lung Association.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a proposed rule that would require insurers to covered preventive services, including tobacco cessation, as part of the Essential Health Benefit provision Nov. 26. Because the department didn't define what must be included as part of tobacco cessation benefits, each state can choose its own benchmark plan, which will serve as the standard for plans in that state's health insurance exchange, the association said.
"Too many states are not providing the needed coverage and others are cutting it," said Deb Brown, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic president and chief executive officer. "West Virginia has inadequate Medicaid coverage of smoking cessation treatments, providing less than the seven recommended cessation treatments.
"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.
"We know that the vast majority of smokers want to quit, but the complex web of state and federal coverage for effective quit smoking programs and treatments prevents too many from getting the help they need. States and the federal government can reduce the enormous health burden of tobacco use by providing access to these proven interventions."
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. Providing comprehensive quit-smoking treatments would both save lives and curb health costs - one recent study showed that providing this help has a three-to-one return on investment, according to the association.
"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 Brown. "The bottom line is that quitting smoking saves lives and saves money."