August 27th, 2010
05:16 PM ET

Medicare expands coverage of tobacco cessation counseling

Medicare will now pay for counseling for smokers who want to quit. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has expanded coverage of tobacco cessation counseling, removing a barrier to treatment for smokers on Medicare.
Previously, Medicare covered counseling for only  smokers that had been diagnosed with a tobacco related disease or showed symptoms of one.   The program already covers the nicotine patch and gum.  The expanded coverage allows all tobacco users to get counseling from a qualified doctor or a "Medicare-recognized practitioner."  "For too long, many tobacco users with Medicare coverage were denied access to evidence-based tobacco cessation counseling," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Most Medicare beneficiaries want to quit their tobacco use. Now, older adults and other Medicare beneficiaries can get the help they need to successfully overcome tobacco dependence."
CMS Administrator Don Berwick says the move is one more tool in preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries. “All Medicare beneficiaries now have more help to avoid the painful—and often deadly—consequences of tobacco use.”

The coverage applies to services under Medicare parts A and B. Part A is hospital insurance that covers inpatient care. Part B is medical insurance that helps pay for doctor bills and outpatient care. It does not have any affect on Medicare Part D–the Prescription Drug Program–or the SCHIP program (State Children's Health Insurance Program). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says medicare will spend approximately $800 billion on tobacco-related diseases between 1995 and 2015.

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco us is the is the No. 1 cause of preventable illness and death in the U.S. It's responsible for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Besides lung cancer, it also increases your risk of a wide range of cancers including mouth, lips, nose, sinuses, larynx, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, cervix and acute myeloid leukemia.

The ACS says that while programs that help smokers quit tend to have low success rates, studies show the best programs include some sort of counseling.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Lauren r.

    thank god. for too long all they did was put the money into campaigns about underage smoking, when its older smokers who benefit the most from quitting! my idea 4 a commercial would emphasize for older smokers that when they get emphesyma, everybody gets emphysema. their adult children's jobs get emphysema, their kids marriages get emphysema, the grandchildren's college fund got emphysema. because? this is what really, really happens when smokers in their 50s , 60s and 70s keep smoking. it would end showing a real adult child whose parent died still smoking crying and facing the camera and saying, mom, all you ever wanted was for me to be happy. well, do i look happy now, mom? -from a woman who lost her mom&dad 2 smoking b4 i turned 26-and who just this summer had to watch her best friends 30 yo daughter watch as her own mom died a terribly gristly death from copd-that could have been delayed a decade if only she had been told when she was diagnosed age 52 with emphyrema that quittng smoking would have added another whole decade of fairly quality life!

    August 29, 2010 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Sydney Australia

    I want my mommy to quit smoking. She tries n tries but she just can't stop smoking. She says her life is just too rough and she has too many worries. I just want Dawn to quit smoking before she dies.

    August 30, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Frank

      Your mom's more likely to die from the stress than the smoking. I'd worry about that first.

      September 10, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Well, not worry. Focus on solving the stress problem. Don't need anymore worries.

      September 10, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse |
  3. Kevin

    Excellent decision. The more resources spent cessation and prevention will be better for our health and our health care costs.


    August 31, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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