MassHealth: 26% Members Have Quit Smoking

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The Patrick Administration announced today that more than 75,000 MassHealth smokers have used the state’s tobacco cessation pilot program to try to quit smoking since July 2006. According to a recent Department of Public health survey, there were approximately 33,000 fewer MassHealth smokers since the benefit went into effect. This is the first significant drop in smoking rates in this population to date.

Since the MassHealth tobacco cessation benefit was established in 2006, the number of MassHealth members who smoke has dropped by 26%. In the 12 months prior to the benefit going into effect, the smoking rate among MassHealth members was 38.3%, more than twice as high as the rate for the general population. The percentage fell to 28.3% in 2008, a change that can be attributed in large part to the success of the tobacco cessation benefit. Researchers found a smaller decrease in the smoking rate for other low income groups that did not have MassHealth coverage.

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The MassHealth tobacco cessation benefit provides prescription and over-the-counter quit-smoking medication to members who want to quit. The program also includes optional face-to-face counseling. MassHealth developed the tobacco cessation benefit in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) in 2006. The significant number of MassHealth members who have quit has a great deal to do with the DPH-supported outreach efforts across the state encouraging people to quit smoking and use their health care resources for support.

“This significant reduction in smoking rates among MassHealth members demonstrates the critical importance of the Patrick Administration’s ongoing anti-smoking efforts in improving the overall health of residents of the Commonwealth,” said Medicaid Director Tom Dehner. “Reducing smoking rates among our members was our goal in establishing this new benefit, because it improves long-term health outcomes and will save the state money.”

“Three out of four smokers say that they want to quit, but the cost of medications that help with cravings is a significant financial barrier to many low income people,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach. “The success of the MassHealth benefit shows that smokers will utilize such a benefit, and they will quit in large numbers with the appropriate supports.”

Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of illness and death in the Commonwealth and in the United States. More than 8,000 Massachusetts residents die annually from the effects of smoking, and tobacco use is associated with $4.3 billion in excess health care costs in Massachusetts each year.

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