Will Beshear Fund Smoking Cessation Programs?

Will Governor Steve Beshear fund smoking cessation programs through Medicaid? Kentucky is one of only five states that doesn’t currently do so. (Guess not everyone is like us in believing you shouldn’t be able to receive Medicaid if you continue to smoke.)

I’m asking because Passport Health, which operates Medicaid for the 16 county Louisville region, provides funding. Passport has also seen 51% of people who take advantage of the cessation program – get this – actually quit smoking. And there’s no reason the rest of the Commonwealth’s Medicaid recipients shouldn’t be similarly benefiting.

In 2007 the legislature here in Kentucky created the cessation program but didn’t do the important thing of attaching funding. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services can’t follow through because there’s no money for them to use. So what the heck can we do?

A coalition of 26 patient advocacy groups issued a press release yesterday urging Governor Beshear to do something. The letter, which you may read below, asks Beshear to include funding in his 2010 budget as a line item. And it’d only cost us taxpayers about $1.5 million– the federal government would match our investment with $3.5 million in additional funding.

Excerpt from the release:

Passed into law in 2007, HB 337 created a comprehensive smoking cessation program, including counseling and medications, for the 285,000 smokers on Kentucky Medicaid. Unfortunately, no funding was attached and the program has languished for two years as an unfunded mandate.

“We commend Governor Beshear’s leadership in increasing the tax on tobacco products this year, and ask that he continue the momentum toward a healthy Kentucky by funding the $1.5 million needed to implement a smoking cessation benefit for the smokers in our Medicaid population,” said Sarah J. Wilding, President of the Kentucky Public Health Association.

Kentucky has the highest adult smoking rate – and highest smoking-related death rate – in the country. Yet, for approximately $5 million ($1.5 from Kentucky and $3.5 in Federal matching funds), the Commonwealth could save thousands of lives and reduce our state’s Medicaid costs by millions per year.

“Since Kentucky Medicaid is already spending an estimated $1.2 billion each year to treat Kentuckians suffering from smoking related illnesses, the investment of $1.5 million will more than make up for itself by helping to decrease that figure by getting people off of cigarettes,” said Tonya Chang of the American Heart Association, on behalf of the coalition.

Here are those 26 organizations:

  • Advocacy Action Network
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Association
  • American Lung Association in Kentucky
  • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • Catholic Conference of Kentucky
  • Child Advocacy Today: A Medical-Legal Partnership for Kentucky’s Children
  • Covering Kentucky Kids and Families
  • Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana
  • Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians
  • Kentucky Association of Nurse Anesthetists
  • Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives
  • Kentucky Council of Churches
  • Kentucky Equal Justice Center
  • Kentucky Health Departments Association
  • Kentucky Medical Association
  • Kentucky Nurses Association
  • Kentucky Primary Care Association
  • Kentucky Public Health Association
  • Kentucky Rural Health Association
  • Kentucky Voices for Health
  • Kentucky Youth Advocates
  • Mental Health America of Kentucky
  • NAMI Kentucky
  • National Kidney Foundation of Kentucky
  • Purchase Area Health Education Center

That list makes the letter a pretty big deal.

Click here (Warning: PDF Link) for a copy of the entire press release.