Medicare says it will now extend smoking cessation counseling to its recipients citing the cost of providing health care to smokers as one reason for adopting the benefit. A study commissioned by Medicare found that the agency will spend about $800 billion on smoking-related health care over the 20-year period between 1995 and 2015.
Effective immediately, Medicare will pay for up to eight counseling sessions per year for smokers who want to kick the habit. In 2011, the counseling sessions will be offered under Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B at no cost to interested seniors. Medicare already pays for pharmaceutical interventions and counseling for those who have developed smoking-related illnesses, but did not pay for smoking cessation counseling for seniors who simply want to attempt to quit. Studies show that senior smokers are less likely to try to give up smoking, but those who do try are more successful at quitting than younger smokers.
Research has also shown that counseling is highly effective in helping seniors give up a tobacco habit – even a long-term one. Seniors who undergo smoking cessation counseling are more likely to quit successfully and are more likely to live longer, even after having acquired smoking related illnesses like heart disease.
Only about 10% of seniors are regular tobacco users, compared with 20% of the general population. Despite this, tobacco-related illnesses remain the number one preventable cause of disease and death among Americans. Because many more smokers are not yet Medicare-eligible, the agency expects to see a larger number of smokers and smoking-related illnesses among newly eligible recipients.
Right now, Medicare estimates that about 4.5 million senior Medicare recipients smoke along with another one million disabled Americans younger than age 65 who receive Medicare coverage. The new coverage is part of the Affordable Health Care Act and is extended to all Medicare recipients, regardless of their age.
- December 17, 2010
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