August 28, 2010 - The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced August 27, 2010 that Medicare will now cover smoking cessation counseling as a preventative measure against a wide range of diseases. (About one in 10 seniors smoke, compared with one in five people amongst the U.S. population as a whole.)
Smoking cessation is covered under Medicare, but not as extensively as it soon will be. Patients in the past could receive benefits only after their physicians recommend smoking cessation to help treat their smoke-associated diseases.
The new coverage is mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which contains a number of provisions that focus on preventing diseases including smoke cessation, vaccination, regular physical checkups and cancer screening, among others.
Under the new coverage, all smokers covered by Medicare, regardless of whether or not they suffer a smoke-induced disease, can receive tobacco cessation counseling from a qualified physician or other Medicare-recognized clinician indicated to help the patients to quit smoking.
All Medicare beneficiaries will continue to have access to smoking-cessation prescription drugs through the Medicare Prescription Drug Program (Part D).
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement: "For too long, many tobacco users with Medicare coverage were denied access to evidence-based tobacco cessation counseling. Most Medicare beneficiaries want to quit their tobacco use. Now, older adults and other Medicare beneficiaries can get the help they need to successfully overcome tobacco dependence."
There are about 46 million smokers in the United States, about 10 percent of them or 4.5 million are Medicare beneficiaries over age 65, and another million receive Medicare benefits due to a disability, according to HHS. Older smokers who receive counseling are significantly more likely to quit than those who only get standard medical care.
For a further comparison of the old and new smoking cessation Medicare programs see the first reference below.
References: Medicare now covers smoking cessation as a preventative measure, Jimmy Downs (editing by Rachel Stockton), FoodConsumer.org, 8/28/2010;
Good news for older smokers Medicare expands coverage to offer free counseling sessions on how to kick the habit by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press - CharlotteObserver.com, 8/29/2010.