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Smoking Cessation Programs Are Good Investments

MANASQUAN, NJ -- Providing full coverage for smoking cessation programs may save lives and money, despite the added cost of providing this type of health benefit.

Information gathered for The Wellness Program Management Yearbook, Second Edition, revealed that fully covered programs seem to attract twice as many participants who may successfully kick the smoking habit, according to a study conducted by the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound's Center for Health Studies.

Dr. Susan Curry, principal author of the study on use and cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation services, said the full-coverage of $328 per user is money well spent.

"It's clearly a bargain compared to the average annual costs for the medical treatment of hypertension ($5,921) and heart disease ($6,941), which are usually continued for the life of the patient," Curry noted.

The study monitored more than 50,000 members of the cooperative whose employer-paid smoking cessation benefits covered the following range: full coverage, standard coverage (50 percent coverage of the behavior program and full coverage of nicotine replacement therapy), "flipped" coverage (full coverage of behavior modification and 50 percent of nicotine replacement therapy), reduced coverage (50 percent coverage of both forms of treatment).

Curry said the cessation rate was slightly higher in the standard group and lowest in the full coverage group.

"Even with a slightly lower quit rate under the full coverage, we estimate that at least two times as many smokers will quit per year under full coverage as under any of the other three coverages," Curry explained.

In addition, Curry estimated that 10 percent of smokers per year would use cessation services with full coverage, compared with 2.4 percent of those who have reduced coverage.

"Although cigarette smoking is the leading cause of premature morbidity and mortality in the United Sates, insurance coverage for smoking cessation services is uncommon," Curry said.

"Lack of information about the effect of insurance coverage on the demand for and use of clinically effective smoking interventions is a barrier to wide-scale adoption of insurance coverage for smoking cessation services," she added.

As a result of the study's findings, the Group Health Cooperative has enhanced its benefit to provide full-coverage smoking cessation services, the yearbook has learned.

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