New England Journal of Medicine: ACA Calls for Coverage to Quit Smoking: Will Insurers Do the Right Thing?

Nov. 19, 2014

ACA Calls for Coverage to Quit Smoking: Will Insurers do the Right Thing

With the Great American Smoke Out tomorrow, November 20, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine calls on insurers across the country to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and do the right thing to help their enrollees who smoke live longer, healthier lives, and reduce healthcare costs.

While the ACA called for expanded insurance coverage for treatments to help smokers quit, insurers have been reluctant to actually follow through by adding such benefits to their plans, in part because the ACA didn’t describe in detail how to meet that mandate.

In May 2014, the United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury strongly recommended that insurers cover the following evidence-based treatments to comply with the ACA: At least two quit attempts per year, with coverage of each quit attempt consisting of:

  1. Four counseling sessions of at least 10 minutes each.
  2. A 90-day supply of one of the seven FDA-approved medications to quit smoking.

“This ACA coverage has immense potential to help smokers quit, thereby saving lives and taxpayer dollars,” said Dr. Michael Fiore, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI) and one of the authors of the NEJM paper. “But it’s ultimately up to insurers and physicians to promote this opportunity. As insurers craft policies, it’s important to emphasize the power of helping Americans quit smoking to avoid the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the nation.”

Regardless of health benefits, any smoker in America can call 800-QUIT-NOW for free advice on how to quit tobacco use.

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UW-CTRI is a nationally recognized research center founded in 1992 and committed to determining the nature of tobacco dependence and developing evidence-based treatments to help patients quit smoking. UW-CTRI is part of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. For more information, visit