MA anti-smoking program helped 30,000 people quit; exceeds expectations

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Three years ago when policymakers in Massachusetts voted to cover anti-smoking treatment under Medicaid, they expected to eventually see results. But the rate of smoking among poor state residents is down from 38% to 28% since 2006, and hospitalizations for heart attacks and ER visits for asthma are also down. The rates of smoking and hospitalizations did not change during the same time period, ruling out unrelated population effects. The results have not been peer reviewed but are so striking that Congress is considering adding smoking cessation coverage to national health reforms. Advocates in CT have been working to get Medicaid coverage of anti-smoking treatments for over a decade with no success. If we had passed the same provision when MA did, CT’s budget hole would be smaller and our state would be healthier. That is only one of thirteen ways to save money in CT’s health care budget that also improve health. Why are we always so far behind the curve? It’s not too late.
Ellen Andrews