Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act, bipartisan legislation that would help at-risk Americans quit smoking by enhancing access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments. The bill would significantly expand these resources for Medicaid enrollees, who have smoking rates that are twice as high as adults with private health insurance.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, and it heightens the risk of serious health complications for individuals with COVID-19,” said Senator Collins. “To address this public health crisis, our bipartisan bill would improve individuals’ access to prevention and smoking cessation resources, ultimately helping to reduce tobacco-caused diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness.”
“Tobacco addiction is a preventable disease that damages countless lives and causes millions of deaths every year,” said Senator Carper. “Sadly, we know that smokers are at an increased risk of experiencing severe complications from COVID-19. That’s why it is especially important we ensure these resources are readily available to Medicaid enrollees who have disproportionately higher rates of smoking. I’m proud to introduce this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to get more smokers the help they need to kick the habit for good.”
“Responsible for roughly one-third of all cancer deaths, tobacco kills. The tobacco industry has long targeted people with lower incomes, luring them into their business model which relies upon a lifetime of addiction. In order to make progress in preventing and reducing tobacco use, and tobacco-related disease like cancer, it’s imperative we counter their discriminatory practices and ensure individuals who want to quit have the opportunity to do so. This bill is evidence-based by requiring coverage for all FDA-approved cessation services in state Medicaid programs,” said Lisa Lacasse, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
“This legislation will help to reduce the glaring health disparities facing our nation, save lives and improve health among Medicaid and CHIP enrollees, and reduce healthcare costs. It deserves strong support and prompt consideration from Congress,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Specifically, the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act would:
· Require state Medicaid and CHIP programs to cover evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments – seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications as well as individual, group, and phone-based counseling – with no cost-sharing for all enrollees;
· Prohibit use of prior authorization requirements for tobacco cessation treatments in Medicaid and CHIP programs;
· Require state outreach campaigns to educate health care providers and Medicaid and CHIP enrollees about the tobacco cessation coverage; and
· Provide 100% federal reimbursement of the cost of the tobacco cessation coverage and outreach campaign for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency plus an additional two years.
The legislation is supported by dozens of the country’s prominent health groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Lung Association, Nemours, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association.
Click HERE to read the bill text.
Click HERE to read a summary of the bill.
Senator Collins has long been champions of tobacco prevention efforts. In 1997, she co-sponsored an amendment to repeal a $50 billion tax break for the tobacco industry. Earlier this year, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group in introducing a bill to protect children from the dangers of e-cigarettes and hold e-cigarette companies accountable for the youth vaping crisis.