Providing nicotine replacement therapy at no cost to Medicaid recipients could lower by more than $2 million the health care program’s costs in Georgia and two others states, according to researchers from Georgia State University’s School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Shanta Dube, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Georgia State, was one of the authors of “Impact of Increasing Coverage for Select Smoking Cessation Therapies With no Out-of-Pocket Cost Among the Medicaid Population in Alabama, Georgia, and Maine.” The paper is being published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.
[Photo: Dr. Shanta Dube]
The authors wrote that they believe their study is the first attempt to project Medicaid savings by expanding coverage of free smoking cessation therapy to all adult enrollees.
“If Alabama, Georgia and Maine had offered Medicaid coverage for (nicotine replacement therapy) gum and/or patch with no cost sharing in 2012, approximately 157,398 smokers would have had access to the benefit,” the researchers found.
The study noted that smoking is more common among low-income people receiving Medicaid benefits than in the general public, and, consequently, their associated medical costs are higher. In 2010, smoking-related diseases cost Medicaid programs about $761 million. Cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable diseases and deaths in the United States.
Despite the proven effectiveness of tobacco cessation therapies, such as nicotine replacement, more than 80 percent of smokers try to quit without that assistance, the authors noted. Reasons include concerns with safety and efficacy of the therapies, as well as the high out-of-pocket cost for smoking cessation therapy, they said.
“Many studies have suggested that Medicaid enrollees and their treating physicians are not aware of their states’ Medicaid cessation coverage policies,” according to the report. At the time of the study, the three states selected—Alabama, Georgia and Maine—offered the most limited coverage, providing it only to pregnant women.
The researchers also concluded that fully expanding Medicaid coverage to include smoking cessation therapy could reduce “total annual Medicaid payments by $2.4 million” for the three states.
The other authors were Drs. Heba Athar, Zhuo “Adam” Chen and Kara Contreary from the CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services; Dr. Xin Xu from the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; and Man-Huei Chang from the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.