TennCare now pays to help its patients quit smoking — a change that became effective Friday, reports The Tennessean.
The state’s Medicaid program will cover over-the-counter products, such as nicotine gum and patches, as well as prescription medicines. Health workers welcomed the new policy, which was approved and funded this year by the legislature.
Besides improving people’s health, the coverage change is anticipated to save the state money. Lung cancer patients struggle with quitting even after undergoing surgery and other treatments, said Dr. Mathew Ninan, a thoracic oncologist at The Sarah Cannon Cancer Center at Centennial Medical Center.
(A TennCare news release on the matter is posted below)
“If I save one patient from having bad pneumonia and lying in bed for 20 days, that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Ninan said.
News release from TennCare
NASHVILLE – The Bureau of TennCare announced today that medically necessary smoking cessation products are now covered for all enrollees in the program. Including the benefit in the TennCare fiscal year 2012 budget, is a positive step forward in Governor Bill Haslam’s initiative to assist Tennesseans in maintaining healthy lifestyles.
“Not smoking is one of the best healthy choices Tennesseans can make,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “I am pleased that smoking cessation assistance will now be more easily accessible to TennCare recipients. This is an important step to encourage Tennesseans to make healthier decisions, especially since TennCare covers nearly a quarter of the state’s population.”
Previously this benefit was only available to pregnant women and enrollees under the age of 21, while all enrollees had access to smoking cessation counseling services through their primary care provider. The change in pharmacy benefits will cover both prescription and over-the-counter products for all enrollees and adults will be limited to a total of 24 weeks of smoking cessation medication each year. Exceptions will be made for pregnant women to allow for use throughout pregnancy, as appropriate.
“I appreciate the Governor’s efforts in working closely with Commissioner Emkes and the Legislature to identify and approve funding that will allow all TennCare enrollees to take advantage of this benefit,” said Tenncare Director Darin Gordon. “We encourage TennCare members who are considering quitting smoking or other tobacco products to make an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss a tobacco cessation plan.”
TennCare is the State of Tennessee’s Medicaid program that provides health care insurance to approximately 1.2 million Tennesseans. TennCare operates under an annual budget of approximately 8.9 billion dollars.