Smoking cessation coverage falls short of reform law standards

Most health insurers still don't cover smoking cessation programs, even though the reform law requires the coverage of this preventive service.

And among the insurers that do include smoking cessation within their health plans, most have confusing and conflicting information, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

"Insurance companies that are not covering smoking cessation are truly penny wise and pound foolish," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids, which funded the report. Although the country has worked to reduce overall tobacco use, the "clearest and simplest treatments" still face insurance roadblocks, he told Kaiser Health News.

Many of the insurance policies also had gaps in coverage for counseling and medication, as well as cost-sharing requirements that might not comply with the law, the report found.

Of the 39 insurers Georgetown researchers studied, only four clearly explained that they cover smoking cessation counseling for individuals and groups and also clarified that members can receive phone counseling, as well as over-the-counter and prescription medications to help them quit smoking, reported MedCity News.

"It is shocking to see the huge variation in what appears to be a straight-forward, inexpensive benefit that has significant medical evidence on treatment that works," Mila Kofman, principal author of the report and former Maine superintendent of insurance, said in a statement. "It is even more disappointing to find that some in the insurance industry are trying to avoid covering tobacco cessation treatment as required by the Affordable Care Act."

To learn more:
- here's the report
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- see the MedCity News article

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