Source: NJ Spotlight
The state Department of Human Services announced yesterday that language changes in the recently adopted state budget would make it easier for Medicaid patients to obtain medications — like gums, lozenges, and skin patches — to help them quit. The revision removes the current managed-care requirements that a doctor provide prior approval for this treatment.
In addition, the DHS said that — starting in January — Medicaid patients would also have access to smoking cessation programs like federally approved group counseling sessions. There is currently no reimbursement for these types of services.
While smoking rates have declined in the Garden State — to less than 14 percent of adults, and nearly 12 percent of high school students — and continue to be below the national average, tobacco use is significantly higher among Medicaid members than the general public. Cigarette smoking has been definitively linked to lung cancer (87 percent of lung cancer is attributed to tobacco use), heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes, reproductive problems for women, and low birth-weight babies, among other conditions.
Michael Seilback, a national vice president and state public policy director for the American Lung Association, said the state’s change would make it easier for people to “quit this deadly addiction, once and for all.” The association had previously given New Jersey an “F” for its smoking cessation efforts.
At the Assembly hearing in May, officials with the American Heart Association said New Jersey spends more than $1 billion annually on treating smoking-related conditions among Medicaid patients. While there was no estimate available for what the expanded coverage would cost, federal data collected as part of the Massachusetts program showed the Bay State saved $3 for every $1 it invested in the expanded cessation programs.
“Expanding access to tobacco cessation treatment for Medicaid patients will save lives, improve health, and save the state money by reducing healthcare costs,” added Dr. Jacqueline Schwanwede, president of the Northern New Jersey Board of Directors of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, in praising the DHS’s decision to move forward on its own. “Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke, but smokers often need help to quit this deadly habit.”
Under the changes instituted by the DHS, the state will now cover all seven tobacco cessation medications approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, as well as the three forms of counseling that have been shown to help smokers quit. The FDA also offers a free text-messaging service designed to help tobacco users give up the habit.
According to a Heart Association poll, three out of four smokers want to quit and 80 percent have tried; 45 percent have tried more than three times. (One lawmaker, Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), conceded it took her seven tries to kick the habit.)
In November, the state raised to 21 the legal age to purchase cigarettes.