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Arizona Senate Approves Smoking Cessation Treatments for State Medicaid Beneficiaries
Date:3/18/2008

Senate Bill 1418 passed by full Senate, moves to House

PHOENIX, March 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The Arizona Senate today passed legislation allowing the state Medicaid program to expend moneys to provide smoking cessation treatments to eligible members. The measure was approved by a vote of 27 to 3.

Currently, Arizona is one of just seven states nationwide that doesn't cover smoking cessation programs in the state's Medicaid program, which in Arizona is the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).

Introduced by Sen. Barbara Leff (R-Dist. 11), Senate Bill 1418 would have no impact whatsoever on the state's General Fund and would provide benefits for nicotine replacement therapies and tobacco use medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to eligible AHCCCS beneficiaries who are seeking to quit smoking. Currently, these measures include items such as the nicotine patch, gum and lozenges, as well as medications such as Zyban and Chantix, which help ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms and block the effect of nicotine.

"Helping people to stop smoking will not only benefit the individuals, but will benefit the State," Leff said. "Smoking causes massive health problems, and the treatments for those diseases are all being paid for by taxpayers through the AHCCCS program. Getting people off tobacco will result in a savings for the State and an improvement in the lives of the people served by AHCCCS."

It is estimated that 36 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries are smokers -- significantly higher than the national average of 21 percent, according to figures from the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The measure has been supported by a number of health organizations, including the American Cancer Society. "It is so encouraging to see the Arizona Senate recognize the impact of this legislation and work to help our state's Medicaid beneficiaries quit smoking," said Colby Bower, director of government relations of the American Cancer Society in Arizona. "We stand strongly in favor of efforts to help reduce the risk of lung cancer, and other types of cancers, among Arizona citizens, particularly when those efforts can come with such strong economic benefits."

Currently, AHCCCS spends about $316 million each year on smoking-related illnesses -- totaling about 14 percent of the system's costs. If fully implemented, SB 1418 would make AHCCCS eligible to recover nearly 67 percent of those expenses through federal matching funds.

The measure will next go before the House for consideration.

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit http://www.cancer.org.


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SOURCE American Cancer Society
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