Medicare Expands Coverage For Tobacco-Related Counseling

A recent story from The Hill:

The Obama administration on Wednesday expanded Medicare to cover more seniors hoping to kick their tobacco habits.  

“Most Medicare beneficiaries want to quit their tobacco use,” Health and Human Services Department (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement announcing the move. “Now, [they] can get the help they need.”

Under previous rules, Medicare covered tobacco-related counseling only for beneficiaries already suffering from a tobacco-related disease. 

Under the new policy, Medicare will cover as many as two tobacco-cessation counseling tries each year, including as many as four individual sessions per attempt.

The move is the latest in a string of White House efforts to shift the nation’s healthcare system toward prevention, in lieu of simply treating diseases after they’ve developed.

If successful, the new tobacco policy could pay dividends. Of the 46 million Americans estimated to smoke, about 4.5 million are seniors older than 65, HHS says. And nearly 1 million more smokers are younger than 65, but eligible for Medicare benefits. 

They aren’t cheap. Tobacco-related diseases are estimated to cost Medicare about $800 billion between 1995 and 2015.

Donald Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the expansion lends seniors valuable help “to avoid the painful — and often deadly — consequences of tobacco use.”

The change affects Medicare Parts A and B — hospital care and physician services — but not Part D, which already covers smoking-cessation drugs for all beneficiaries.

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4 Responses to "Medicare Expands Coverage For Tobacco-Related Counseling"

  1. tiponeill says:

    If successful, the new tobacco policy could pay dividends……
    Key phrase being “If successful”.
    This is the liberal version of conservatives funding abstinence education – a waste of money on programs that aren’t scientifically based for ideological reasons.
    We will never get health costs under control as long as Medicare doesn’t stop paying for treatments that are shown to be effective.

  2. medicareblogger says:

    Did you mean to write “ineffective” as the last word in your comment?  I would assume that these programs are low-cost options whose costs have been studied by Medicare number crunchers. A person who works in health care said to me many year ago that preventive care has not been proven to save lives or money.  I couldn’t figure how that is true, but I couldn’t quote studies to the contrary.

  3. tiponeill says:

    Did you mean to write “ineffective” as the last word in your comment?
    OOps – yes, sorry 🙂
    A person who works in health care said to me many year ago that preventive care has not been proven to save lives or money
    “preventive care” is too large a term (diabetes screening ?) but in this case “smoking cessation” programs have never been shown to be effective.
    They are simply wastes of time and money which makes doctors feel self righteous and keeps social workers employed. They are very similar to the millions spent on abstinence education, the purpose of which is to make conservatives feel self righteous.

  4. John says:

    I am an ex-smoker who now uses an e-cigarette.
    What bothers me is how the government seems to want to stigmatise and ignore e-cigarettes instead of help the industry and help smokers to quit effectively. It seems like, that for all the anti-smoking initiatives, government-tobacco corruption is as prevalent as ever.
    For those of you who dont know, an e-cigarette is a mini vaporiser device that looks like a real cigarette. It vaporises a liquid, producing water vapor that looks/feels like real smoke and contains nicotine. Its the best alternative to smoking that I know of, apart from going cold turkey I suppose.
    The one brand I like and trust has more info about e-cigs in general at their website –

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