Program to offer anti-smoking drugs as part of health insurance is paying off

Low-income Massachusetts residents on Medicaid health insurance are eligible for anti-smoking treatments; the program is measurably reducing the number of smokers in the state

Massachusetts Medicaid recipients, who can get low-cost drugs to help them quit smoking, are smoking less, The New York Times reports.

The health insurance program for lower-income people began offering anti-smoking drugs to Bay State residents in 2006. By 2008, 30,000 fewer low-income people were smoking, according to Lois Keithly, Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program director.

Thirty-eight percent of poor people smoked in 2006; only 28 percent were still smoking in 2008.

And those people are healthier, the newspaper says. Heart attack hospitalizations decreased 38 percent; asthma-related emergency room visits and birth complications are both down 17 percent.

If Massachusetts' anti-smoking program was instituted on a national scale, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin said to the Times, it could save $100 million in pregnant women's healthcare costs in the next decade. And a Centers for Disease Control official said that illnesses caused by smoking cost the Medicaid health insurance program $22 billion.

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Posted: December 17, 2009

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