The U.S. leads the pack in the percentage of older adults who have trouble paying their medical bills.
BOSTON, Jan. 9 -- The Massachusetts Department of Health & Human Services issued the following news release:
The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced that data from a new study published by researchers at George Washington University show that every dollar MassHealth spends helping its members quit smoking saves the Commonwealth $3.12 in expenses for hospitalizations due to acute cardiovascular conditions. The new data builds on a 2010 study that showed that the risk of hospitalizations for heart attacks and other acute coronary heart disease diagnoses dropped by half among MassHealth members who took advantage of a smoking cessation benefit available as a result of the Commonwealth's historic health care reform.
"While we have always known that helping people quit smoking is an investment in their health, this study shows that our efforts are also a sound financial investment for the Commonwealth," said Governor Deval Patrick. "This represents another positive outcome of health care reform in Massachusetts."
The study, conducted by George Washington University, was based on analyses of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and other previously published health studies. It estimated cost savings for cardiovascular-related hospitalizations and did not include other costly longer-term illnesses caused by tobacco, such as cancer.
A decline in cardiovascular hospitalizations and the associated cost savings were evident just a little over a year after smokers' use of the benefit. "By making a comprehensive smoking cessation benefit available to MassHealth members, we have significantly reduced the number of hospitalizations -- helping people lead healthier lives and saving taxpayer dollars," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "It's clear that investing in prevention strategies is essential to cost containment as we move forward with health care reform."
MassHealth and the Department of Public Health (DPH) Tobacco Cessation & Prevention Program worked together to design a barrier-free benefit that includes all FDA-approved medications to quit smoking and behavioral counseling. Beginning in July 2006, MassHealth began providing coverage of smoking cessation as part of the state's health care reform.
The Commonwealth promoted the new benefit through radio and transit ads and outreach to MassHealth members and health care professionals. The benefit was introduced into an environment that encourages quitting smoking: Massachusetts has smoke-free workplaces, had a relatively high cigarette tax at the time the benefit was introduced, and has a non-smoking social norm, all of which contribute to smokers wanting to quit.
"By providing barrier-free access to tobacco cessation services, MassHealth is not simply covering the cost of care for its members," said Massachusetts Medicaid Director Dr. Julian Harris. "We are also promoting health and wellness, while at the same time freeing up MassHealth funds for other health care purposes."
"There is tremendous value to public health when we provide comprehensive tobacco cessation services for smokers who want to quit," said Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach, "and we're pleased that this new study shows its immediate economic value as well."
Smoking-attributable diseases account for 10 percent of all health care costs in Massachusetts, a full $4.3 billion in excess health care expenditures each year. More than 8,000 Massachusetts residents die each year from smoking, and many more have tobacco-related illnesses that cause disability and pain: cancer, heart disease and stroke, emphysema, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Studies show that 77 percent of smokers in Massachusetts want to quit. Smoking is an addiction, and smokers need help to quit for good.
Today's study findings are based on an independent assessment conducted by researchers from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, led by Professor Leighton Ku, and funded by Partnership for Prevention, a nonprofit organization that supports evidence-based public health prevention efforts. The study was published today in the peer-reviewed online journal PLoS One, at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029665.
TNS hc11-120110-JF78-3736632 StaffFurigay