Monday, August 30, 2010

On August 25th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced an expansion of Medicare coverage that is supported by many tobacco control advocates around the nation. This new expansion offers coverage of evidence-based tobacco cessation counseling, allowing many more smokers to get the treatment that they need.

Despite the fact that Medicare provides coverage for over 43 million beneficiaries, tobacco counseling was previously only offered to those individuals who were diagnosed with or showed symptoms of a tobacco-related disease. This new benefit provides coverage for tobacco cessation counseling to all smokers. As Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explains, “For too long, many tobacco users with Medicare coverage were denied access to evidence-based tobacco cessation counseling. Most Medicare beneficiaries want to quit their tobacco use. Now, older adults and other Medicare beneficiaries can get the help they need to successfully overcome tobacco dependence.”

Medicare beneficiaries will now be provided coverage for two individual tobacco cessation counseling attempts each year, with a total of eight counseling sessions per Medicare patient each year. This coverage has been expanded under the Affordable Care Act, which requires Medicare to cover a variety of preventive services, including tobacco cessation services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will also provide more guidance in the upcoming months about a new Medicaid benefit offering pregnant women coverage for tobacco cessation treatment.

Tobacco-related diseases will cost Medicare an estimated 800 billion dollars between 1995 and 2015. With this new benefit, however, smokers will receive the help they need to quit and prevent these tobacco-related diseases, providing major health benefits for themselves and huge cost savings for Medicare.

Medicare’s coverage of tobacco cessation counseling eliminates a huge barrier to treatment that previously impeded many smokers who sought help in trying to quit. Such coverage fully supports Partnership for Prevention’s mission to provide comprehensive cessation treatments to all tobacco users. Partnership commends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its tobacco control efforts.

For more information please visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid website.

Katie Burggraf
Tobacco Control Team


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