December 29, 2015
Keeping that New Year's resolution to quit smoking may be easier in 2016, since tobacco treatment medication for Minnesotans on Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare will be completely free starting Jan. 1, 2016.
Changes passed during the 2015 state legislative session waive copays for preventive services that are "A or B" rated by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, such as tobacco treatment counseling as well as FDA-approved smoking cessation medications. This means Minnesotans insured by Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare will have no copays for quit-smoking treatments starting in 2016.
Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease. In Minnesota, nearly 5,900 people die every year due to smoking, and it causes nearly $2.5 billion annually in medical costs. This change removes significant barriers for more Minnesotans who want to quit smoking and is expected to save state taxpayers money in the long run by reducing the number of people who smoke - and experience the negative health impacts associated with the habit.
"Expanding access to tobacco treatment medication will further support our state's efforts to reduce tobacco use," said Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper. "By ensuring more Minnesotans can afford these medicines, we can work to increase the success rate for quitting smoking in Minnesota."
Despite declines in the overall number of Minnesotans who smoke, many communities still smoke at disproportionately higher rates. Low-income Minnesotans enrolled in Medicaid smoke at approximately twice the rate
of the general population, and health care costs for smokers are 34 percent higher
than for nonsmokers. According to Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger, making it easier for people to quit smoking is good news all around.
"Quitting smoking is one of the best things people can do to improve their health," said Ehlinger. "To help all Minnesotans realize the benefit of being smoke-free, we need to remove barriers, especially financial barriers, to quitting. This is particularly important for people with low incomes who may not have the resources to pay for essential tobacco use cessation programs."
The good news is most Minnesotans want to quit, and behavioral interventions, such as in-person or telephone counseling and medications, including nicotine replacement therapies, can greatly improve the chances that a person will be successful in their quit attempt.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, clinicians should ask all adults whether they use tobacco and advise them to quit if they do.
Patients who are interested in quitting are encouraged talk to their doctor about treatment options. More information is available on the QUITPLAN Services website