February 16, 2011

Help For Medicaid Smokers In Gov’s Budget

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Smokers on Medicaid would get help quitting under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget. 

The spending plan designates $3.75 million for smoking cessation coverage under Medicaid in the 2011-12 fiscal year and adds $15 million more in the next two years.  Connecticut is now one of only three states where Medicaid does not cover smoking cessation.  (Read previous story here.)

Advocates say that taxpayers will come out ahead under Malloy’s proposal.  Connecticut spends $2 billion annually on smoking-related illnesses and would save $91 million annually within five years of the policy change, according to figures provided by the Mobilize Against Tobacco for Connecticut’s Health Coalition.

MATCH Executive Director Patricia Checko, in a statement, praised the governor for the proposed extension on smoking cessation coverage and for his plan to raise cigarette taxes, which she termed, “a one-two punch to knock out the high smoking rate among the Medicaid population.”

The budget would extend cessation coverage to all smokers on Medicaid beginning Jan. 1, 2012.  Currently only pregnant women receive the benefit under Medicaid, a change the state made in October 2010 because of new federal requirements.

The governor’s budget cited a Massachusetts study that showed Medicaid coverage to help smokers quit lowered the smoking rate 26 percent, with corresponding decreases in heart attacks and emergency room visits for asthma symptoms among people who used the benefit.

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