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States Urged to Fill Gap in Helping Smokers Quit
Date:11/9/2010

TUESDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. health care reform law offers help to the majority of smokers who are trying to quit, but states need to bridge coverage gaps to ensure that all smokers have access to smoking cessation treatments, a new American Lung Association report suggests.

There are two main areas where the health care overhaul leaves large gaps in helping smokers get access to cessation treatments, according to the report, which was released Tuesday.

The first gap affects Medicaid recipients. While the new federal law mandates cessation treatment coverage for pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid, that requirement applies to fewer than 1 million out of the approximately 58 million Medicaid recipients. The smoking rate among people enrolled in Medicaid is more than 60 percent higher than the rate in the general population, the lung association noted in its news release.

The second gap affects people on private insurance plans. The new law requires the majority of private health plans, which cover 64 percent of Americans, to cover smoking cessation treatments. However, the federal government hasn't issued guidance on what private insurers must cover. Until that happens, insurers may not provide comprehensive coverage.

According to the lung association, comprehensive coverage means easy access to seven medications and three types of counseling recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These include over-the-counter (patch, gum, lozenge) and prescription (patch, nasal spray, inhaler) nicotine replacement therapies; two non-nicotine prescription drugs called bupropion and varenicline; and individual, group and phone counseling.

To bridge major coverage gaps, states need to provide smoking cessation treatments to all adults enrolled in Medicaid and should require all private health plans to cover all smoking cessation treatments, the report stated.

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