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Arizona Senate Pushes for Smoking Cessation Treatments for State Medicaid Beneficiaries
Date:3/6/2008

Senate Bill 1418 approved by Senate Health Committee, moves to full Senate

PHOENIX, March 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Cancer Society today held an Advocacy Day for state legislators on the Senate Lawn at the Arizona Capitol to educate them about all types of cancer and how individuals can protect themselves.

The event comes on the heels of an Arizona Senate health committee hearing on Feb. 21 at which a measure allowing the state Medicaid program to expend moneys to provide smoking cessation treatment to eligible members was approved. Currently, Arizona is one of just seven states nationwide that doesn't cover smoking cessation programs in the state's Medicaid program, 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 eligible AHCCCS beneficiaries who are seeking to quit smoking by using nicotine replacement therapies and tobacco use medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 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.

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.

"It is so encouraging to see the Arizona legislature support the legislation that would extend benefits for smoking cessation medications to members of state's Medicaid program," 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 health related diseases among Arizona citizens; particularly when those efforts can come with such strong economic benefits and are tied to a health issue that nearly all Arizonans can agree upon."

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 full Senate, then on to the House health committee before consideration by the full House.

For more information regarding the advocacy efforts of the American Cancer Society call 1-800-227-2345.

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 The American Cancer Society
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