Elder Law of Louisville's Blog

Monday, October 4, 2010

KY Medicaid Now Provides Help to Stop Smoking.

Kentucky Medicaid recipients are now eligible for nicotine replacement products and drugs to help them quit smoking, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday.  “This is a great opportunity for Medicaid recipients to stop smoking or using tobacco,” Beshear said at a news conference in the Capitol.  The 2010-12 state budget provides $3 million for the program, which will be matched with $8.4 million in federal funds, Beshear said.

The program, which began Oct. 1, has been sought for years by health advocates. They say it will improve the health of Kentuckians and save money in the long haul because treatment for tobacco-related illness costs the state Medicaid program nearly $500 million a year.  Amy Barkley, of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, praised the governor and General Assembly for including funding for the program in a lean state budget.  “Providing smoking cessation coverage for Kentucky Medicaid recipients is good economic and health policy,” Barkley said in a news release. “It benefits individual patients and Kentucky businesses while helping to improve the long-term financial prosperity of the state.”

Under the program, Medicaid recipients will be given a tobacco cessation assessment to determine their tobacco usage, willingness to quit and coping skills, as well as any barriers to quitting.  Recipients will enroll in a counseling program and select a cessation program. Nicotine replacement products such as gum or patches and tobacco cessation drugs will, if necessary, be prescribed by the recipient's provider.

About one in four Kentucky adults smoke, but the rate is about 40 percent among Medicaid recipients, said Tonya Chang of the American Heart Association.  Kentucky Public health Commissioner William Hacker said only 1 to 5 percent of individuals who try to quit on their own succeed. But about 28 percent are successful under the type of comprehensive program now being offered by Medicaid.

Beshear said Kentucky along with West Virginia “still leads the nation in the percentage of adults who smoke. We also are second in the nation in number of pregnant women who smoke.” He also said nearly 8,000 Kentuckians die prematurely each year because of tobacco use.  “We cannot, and we must not, ignore these statistics,” he said.

Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller said recipients who want to enroll in the program should consult their health care provider.

Courtesy of Courier-Journal.

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