American Lung Association and MD Anderson Announce Effort to Improve Tobacco Cessation Treatment for Medicaid Enrollees

Seven states selected for increased access to quit smoking tools, education and outreach

The American Lung Association and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are pleased to announce a new partnership aimed at increasing coverage and access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments for Medicaid enrollees in seven states. MD Anderson will support the American Lung Association’s education outreach to each state’s officials about the importance of consistent and comprehensive tobacco cessation coverage in state Medicaid programs in order to help the Medicaid population access proven-effective quit smoking medications and treatment. 

Seven states have been identified for focused efforts and educational support: Arkansas, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Each of these states’ Medicaid programs limit or vary in their tobacco cessation coverage, which can make it challenging for some patients to access quit smoking tools.  

“Tobacco use, which will claim 480,000 American lives this year, continues to disproportionately impact those with lower incomes, leading to greater rates of many types of cancers,” said Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “By increasing access to proven tobacco cessation treatments for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, we will make a significant impact on the cancer problem.”  

According to a 2015 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Cessation Treatments and Barriers to Coverage – United States, 2014 -2015,” only 30 states covered all seven tobacco cessation medications. And every state limited treatment options, making it more difficult for patients to access the treatment, and therefore more difficult for smokers to quit.

“States need to make it easier for smokers to get the help they need to quit. Medicaid enrollees are more than twice as likely to smoke as people with private insurance, but they have less access to proven quit smoking treatments,” said Harold P. Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “We are pleased to join forces with MD Anderson to increase access to proven quit smoking treatments, which will help reduce the number of people who develop lung diseases like COPD and lung cancer, our nation’s leading cancer killer.”

Increased access to quit smoking treatments will be timely and especially important for the estimated 420,000 Americans who smoke and live in public housing. In anticipation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s final rule making all public housing smokefree, both organizations are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the help they need to quit smoking.  

“The American Lung Association has been at the forefront of helping residents make their multi-unit housing smokefree, and has a long history of helping smokers quit,” said Wimmer. “Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, and it’s not unusual for someone to try several times before quitting for good. We must make sure Medicaid enrollees have the support they need to quit when they are ready to take this important step.”

Each of the seven states identified has a large number of public housing units. By increasing coverage and access to cessation treatments, the organizations hope to help make it easier for residents who live in public housing to quit smoking, if they choose to do so.

“Tobacco use will claim an estimated 1 billion lives worldwide in the 21st century. MD Anderson is committed to our goal of Making Cancer History, and we know a critically important step in that direction is to end tobacco,” said DePinho. “Through this new effort and our EndTobacco program, which launched as part of our Cancer Moon Shots Program, MD Anderson is actively working to eliminate tobacco use and protect everyone from its devastating effects.”