New research by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services indicates that including comprehensive tobacco cessation benefits in Medicaid insurance coverage can result in substantial savings for Medicaid programs. The study, titled "The Return on Investment of a Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Program in Massachusetts," published by the open access journal PLoS ONE, found that every dollar spent in program costs resulted in an average program savings of $3.12, which represents a $2.12 return on investment. The research shows that investing in smoking cessation programs can result in lower levels of smoking, which in turn lead to reductions in hospital admissions for heart related problems and significant savings for Medicaid.
The financial support for the research came from Partnership for Prevention.
"Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States," said Leighton Ku, Ph.D., professor of Health Policy at the GW School of Public Health and Health Services, who led the research project. "Millions of low-income smokers in the U.S. are insured by Medicaid. In 2004, smoking-related Medicaid expenditures for all states combined was $22 billion, which represented 11 percent of all Medicaid spending. Investments in comprehensive tobacco cessation services in Medicaid can improve the health of patients, as well as save money for states and the federal government."
The research focused on estimating the costs of tobacco cessation programs compared to the savings that Medicaid will realize due to fewer inpatient hospital visits for heart attacks and related cardiovascular conditions. Researchers used data gathered from the 2002-2008 Medical Expenditure Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Surveys to estimate the cost of hospital inpatient admissions for smokers covered by Medicaid. A smoking cessation program in Massachusetts, which offered a wide range of smoking cessation medications, as well as individual and group counseling for Medicaid recipients, proved to be successful and was estimated to have saved an average of $388 per user per year.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will add millions of new Medicaid recipients in 2014 and tobacco cessation services in Medicaid could soon be offered to a much larger share of the low-income smoking population. Researchers concluded that despite the Medicaid budgetary shortfalls faced by state and federal governments, a comprehensive tobacco cessation program for Medicaid enrollees is an evidence-based policy strategy which should improve public health and reduce health care expenditures.
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