The AAFP is one of three dozen organizations that recently signed a letter(www.naquitline.org) to CMS, urging the agency to allow states to obtain federal Medicaid matching funds for the cost of tobacco cessation services provided by quitlines.
According to the June 14 letter, which was drafted by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Medicaid beneficiaries use tobacco at rates 50 percent higher than the general population and account for up to 40 percent of calls to quitlines.
The letter also says that tobacco-related illnesses account for 10 percent to 15 percent of all Medicaid expenditures.
Every state and two U.S. territories have tobacco cessation quitlines, which provide phone-based counseling on how to quit smoking. Some provide medications to help smokers quit, as well as links to health information and resources, the letter says.
However, some states do not have CMS approval for Medicaid coverage, which is required to receive federal matching funds to pay for quitline programs.
"Ensuring Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation quitlines will improve access to these services, help more tobacco users to quit, help protect children and adults from secondhand smoke, and reduce the disease and premature death attributable to tobacco use," the letter says.
The letter points out that the CDC's guide, Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs(www.cdc.gov), calls for promoting and expanding quitline services. Specifically, the guide says quitlines are "a resource for busy health care providers, who can ask patients about their tobacco use status and then link them to quitline cessation services for counseling. Optimally, quitline counseling should be made available to all tobacco users willing to access the service."
The letter also points out that CMS itself has recognized the importance of cessation counseling because the agency recently proposed expanding coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.