Many health insurance plans throughout the nation are not openly offering the required tobacco cessation treatments designed to help individuals quit smoking which was recently mandated through the Affordable Care Act. The study completed by Georgetown University was for the Campaign for Tabacoo-Free kids is concerning and the authors are recommending that federal and state regulators give insurance companies more guidance on what coverage is required under health care reform when it comes to tobacco cessation education.
The Affordable Care Act is requiring all new private health insurance plans to cover a variety of health care services and the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) grades the services with an A or B. For smoking cessation, the USPSTF recommends that clinicians ask adults about tobacco use and provide intervention education for those who need it. They find that longer and more frequent counseling sessions help for higher quit rates and combining education with appropriate medication is more effective than just counseling alone. It’s important these tactics are implemented to encourage people to quit smoking and improve the overall health of Americans. The article from SacBee.com goes over some of the highlights and upsetting results from this study.
To figure out how well this plan is being implemented by health insurers, experts at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute looked at 39 health insurance plans including individual, small group, federal and state employee plans. This wide study was put forth by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and funding from Pfizer, Inc. Many aspects of the findings caused some concern. The researchers believe that some policies are confusing and even conflicting with other policies already in place. It’s possible individuals could see the language as not covering cessation treatment and avoid taking advantage of this benefit. This raises some concern that it’s deliberate to avoid spending money on this type of treatment. There was even complicated and confusing language used when looking at small-group plans which can be more comprehensive.
Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, believes covering tobacco cessation programs is important for insurance companies to avoid future costs from smoking-related diseases. Tobacco continues to be a leading cause of so many diseases including certain forms for cancer, heart disease and serious breathing conditions. The Affordable Care Act recognizes the importance of counseling and so should the insurance companies. Mila Kofman, principal author of the study and former Maine Superintendent of Insurance said she is shocked to see the huge variations in such a simple and inexpensive health care benefit. She thinks some in the health insurance industry are trying to avoid covering this benefit even though it’s required by the Affordable Care Act.
To see more on this interesting study, you can visit this website: http://tfk.org/coveragereport/
Written by Sam Tabes
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Tags: affordable care act, health care reform, health insurance companies, smoking cessation, smoking counseling