no smokingA new report from the American Lung Association (ALA), titled “Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2012,” says the United States is at a “tipping point” in regards to policies that help smokers quit. The report provides a look at each state’s tobacco cessation coverage and a current look at federal coverage and requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

The report states that the federal government has time and again missed opportunities to improve access to quit smoking medications and counseling. At the state level, the record is mixed. For example, as smokers try to quit, most states do not provide funding for quit lines. Only Maine and South Dakota invest in quit lines at or above the recommended amount. Among the other key findings in the report:

Medicaid Coverage:
• Two states, Indiana and Massachusetts, provide comprehensive coverage;
• Two states, Alabama and Georgia, provide no cessation coverage;
• Four states—Colorado, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota—provided new counseling benefits for pregnant women in 2012; and
• Connecticut and Tennessee announced new benefits for everyone in 2012 that are close to comprehensive.

State Employee Health Plan Coverage:
• Four states—Illinois, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Rhode Island—provide comprehensive coverage;
• Zero states provide no coverage; and
• Florida, Georgia, Nebraska and New Jersey added new cessation benefits for state employees in 2012.

Federal Coverage:
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed rule last month that requires Essential Health Benefit coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act to cover tobacco cessation, as well as other preventive services. However, because HSS hasn’t defined what must be included as part of a tobacco cessation benefit, each state can choose its own benchmark plan, which will serve as the Essential Health Benefit standard for plans in that state’s health insurance exchange..

“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,” said Paul G. Billings, senior vice president for advocacy and education at the American Lung Association. “States and the federal government can reduce the enormous health burden of tobacco use by providing access to these proven interventions.”

Source: American Lung Association