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Legislation aims to help more people quit smoking

It would ensure Medicaid enrollees have access to all FDA-approved cessation products.

New legislation introduced March 23 would make permanent a change in Medicaid coverage for cessation services implemented in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Evidence-based cessation services include the seven FDA-approved medications and individual, group, and telephone counseling. Before the Quit Because of Covid-19 Act passed last year, state Medicaid programs were only required to provide cessation services to pregnant women, a requirement under the Affordable Care Act. This new law would ensure Medicaid enrollees trying to quit tobacco have all evidence-based resources available to them to increase their odds of success.

The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):

“Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death nationwide and it is responsible for roughly one-third of all cancer deaths. Tobacco cessation services are a key component in a comprehensive strategy to reduce death and disease from tobacco use and their associated health care costs. ACS CAN has long advocated at the state and federal level to include coverage for all FDA-approved cessation services within state Medicaid plans. Medicaid enrollees smoke at more than twice the rate of adults on private health insurance. Ensuring they have access to all FDA-approved cessation services will save lives.

“In the midst of a pandemic that attacks one’s respiratory system, including coverage for proven cessation services in Medicaid is paramount and ACS CAN supported Congress’ action to do so in the summer of 2020. However, that need will remain long after COVID-19 is under control. The tobacco industry has long targeted people with lower incomes, luring them into a lifetime of addiction. It’s imperative we counter that discrimination and ensure these individuals who want to quit have the opportunity to do so by making coverage for all FDA-approved cessation services permanent in state Medicaid programs.

“If we are to make progress in preventing and reducing tobacco use, and tobacco-related disease like cancer, it’s critical we take steps like this one to help residents disproportionally affected by tobacco to avoid and quit this deadly product. “

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