Carper, Collins Introduce Bill to Expand Affordable Access to Tobacco Cessation Treatments

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  This week, Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act, legislation that would help at-risk Americans quit smoking by enhancing access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments. With Medicaid enrollees smoking at more than twice the rate of adults with private health insurance, this legislation would help cover the cost to treat those suffering from tobacco-caused diseases – which is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The legislation is supported by several of the country’s prominent health groups, including the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“Tobacco addiction is a preventable disease that damages countless lives and causes millions of deaths every year,” Carper said. “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.”

“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,” Collins said. “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.”

“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,” Lisa Lacasse, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said.

“The American Lung Association is pleased to support Senator Carper’s Quit Because of COVID-19 Act,” Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association said. “Smokers have a higher risk of severe disease from the virus that causes COVID-19. This bipartisan bill will make it easier for millions of low-income Americans to quit.” 

“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,” Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said.

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.

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

This legislation is supported by 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.

You can read the full text of the legislation here, and also read a one pager of the legislation here