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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

GW Study Identifies Gap in Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Programs

A new study, published in the January issue of Health Affairs by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University, provides new data on how often state Medicaid programs provide help with smoking cessation. Based on data about the level of medications purchased by Medicaid, the researchers estimate that only 10 percent of smokers on Medicaid received medication to help them stop smoking every year.

The Affordable Care Act required that all state Medicaid programs cover at least some counseling and FDA-approved therapies like nicotine gum and drugs like bupropion and varenicline. Yet this study found that some states were doing a better job than others at getting Medicaid smokers the help they need.

Smoking Cessation Map

This study found that the top five states providing Medicaid smokers with anti-smoking medication in 2013 were: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Oregon and Arizona. The bottom five states that made it hard for smokers to get this therapy in 2013 were: Texas, Rhode Island, Kansas, Mississippi and Arkansas. Some barriers that states can erect include prohibitive cost-sharing or prior authorization requirements that can stand in the way of smokers getting this medication, says Dr. Leighton Ku, professor and interim chair of the department of health policy and management at Milken Institute SPH and the lead author of the study.

The researchers note that strengthening Medicaid’s commitment to anti-smoking measures could save the program money in the long run by decreasing rates of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious health programs that often result from smoking. Read more about the study.