State Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco-Dependence Treatments - United States, 2009

Medicaid enrollees have nearly twice the smoking rates (37%) of the general adult population (21%), and smoking-related medical costs are responsible for 11% of Medicaid expenditures. In 2008, the Public Health Service released clinical practice guidelines recommending comprehensive coverage of effective tobacco-dependence medications and counseling by health insurers. Healthy People 2010 established a clear objective for Medicaid programs to cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved medications and counseling for tobacco cessation. To monitor progress toward that objective, the Center for Health and Public Policy Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with CDC, surveyed Medicaid programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) to document their 2009 tobacco-dependence treatment coverage and found that 47 programs offered coverage. Only eight state programs offered coverage of all recommended pharmacotherapy and counseling for all Medicaid enrollees, and 16 programs reported coverage for fee-for-service enrollees that differed from that provided for Medicaid managed-care enrollees. Among the 33 programs that covered at least one combination therapy, the nicotine patch plus bupropion slow release (SR) was the one combination covered by all. The Affordable Care Act mandates Medicaid coverage of tobacco-dependence treatments for pregnant women, beginning October 1, 2010. Coverage of pharmacotherapy for all Medicaid enrollees will be enhanced by January 2014, when states no longer may exclude tobacco-dependence cessation drugs from covered benefits. Monitoring the extent to which Medicaid programs place limitations on these treatments can help in evaluating accessibility of tobacco-dependence treatments to Medicaid enrollees.

Medicaid coverage of tobacco-dependence treatments has been assessed regularly since 1998 by the University of California, Berkeley. In November 2009, a link to an online survey instrument was sent to previously identified Medicaid personnel for the 50 state Medicaid programs and DC. Respondents were asked to complete 45 questions regarding treatment coverage, coverage limitations, outreach activities, and related subjects. Follow-up questions were directed to relevant contacts in each state via telephone or e-mail. The response rate was 100%. To validate survey responses, Medicaid programs were asked to submit documentation of their tobacco-dependence treatment coverage policies. Of the 47 programs that indicated they covered at least one tobacco-dependence treatment, supporting documentation was obtained for 44 (94%) programs. For programs without complete documentation, the information given by the respondent was confirmed with a second respondent within that state before being accepted as accurate.

Among the 51 Medicaid programs, 47 provided tobacco-dependence treatment coverage for some enrollees, 38 covered at least one tobacco-dependence treatment for all Medicaid enrollees, and four (Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee) offered no coverage for tobacco-dependence treatment to their enrollees. Coverage for all enrollees was defined as coverage that did not differ between fee-for-service (FFS) and managed-care organization (MCO) enrollees. Coverage for all Medicaid enrollees was reported for the nicotine patch (34 programs), bupropion or Zyban* (33 programs), nicotine gum (32 programs), varenicline (Chantix) (32 programs), nicotine nasal spray (28 programs), nicotine inhalers (27 programs), and nicotine lozenges (25 programs). Only five states (Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, and Pennsylvania) reported having policies that require coverage of all recommended pharmacotherapies and individual and group counseling for all Medicaid enrollees.

The 2008 Public Health Service guideline identifies four combination therapies (i.e., two tobacco-dependence medications taken simultaneously) as being effective in treating tobacco-dependence: 1) nicotine patch and nicotine gum, 2) nicotine patch and nicotine nasal spray, 3) nicotine patch and nicotine inhaler, and 4) nicotine patch and bupropion SR. The most commonly covered combination of tobacco-dependence treatments among the Medicaid programs was the nicotine patch and bupropion SR (33 programs), followed by the nicotine patch and nicotine gum (21 programs), the nicotine patch and nicotine inhaler (21 programs), and the nicotine patch and nicotine nasal spray (19 programs).

Fewer Medicaid programs covered counseling than pharmacotherapy; 18 programs covered individual counseling for all Medicaid enrollees, six programs covered only FFS enrollees (with two restricting coverage to pregnant women), one covered MCO enrollees only, and six covered only pregnant women. Eight Medicaid programs covered group counseling for all Medicaid enrollees, three programs covered group counseling for FFS only (with two restricting coverage to pregnant women), two programs covered only MCO enrollees, and five programs covered group counseling for pregnant women only.†

Nationwide, coverage for any tobacco-dependence treatments increased, from 45 programs (including two with coverage only for pregnant women) to 47 programs since 2007, the most recent year for which comparable data were reported. Nebraska added coverage for tobacco-dependence treatments for FFS enrollees and Alabama added individual counseling for pregnant women. In addition, Arizona and Washington expanded coverage previously limited to pregnant women to include all Medicaid enrollees. Overall, 12 Medicaid programs added or expanded coverage from 2007 to 2009.

Medicaid enrollment options vary considerably across and within states. Some states offer only traditional FFS Medicaid, others enter into contracts with MCOs to provide services to Medicaid enrollees. Because some state programs reported different coverage policies for FFS and MCO enrollees, and for pregnant women, Medicaid recipients within a state might have varying degrees of access to tobacco-dependence treatments. Some states required that all MCO contracts provide an agreed upon level of coverage for tobacco-dependence treatments; other states allow MCOs to determine what coverage they offer. For example, 32 Medicaid programs covered nicotine gum to all enrollees, but nine programs offered coverage for nicotine gum to their FFS population without requirements to provide this coverage in their MCO contracts. In addition, Rhode Island required coverage for nicotine gum in contracts with MCOs, but does not cover this treatment for FFS enrollees. Overall, 16 programs reported coverage for FFS enrollees that differed from that provided for MCO enrollees.

Reported by

SB McMenamin, PhD, HA Halpin, PhD, M Ingram, Center for Health and Public Policy Studies, Univ of California, Berkeley. A Rosenthal, Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.

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