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WASHINGTON - The Affordable Care Act is helping Delawareans quit smoking by ensuring coverage for preventative health care services, according to a new report released by Senator Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Reforms enacted by the Affordable Care Act require certain health insurance plans to provide coverage for preventive health services, including services to help quit smoking, without any out-of-pocket expenses. Each year, smoking-related illnesses cost the United States over $300 billion and are responsible for approximately 500,000 deaths nationwide. In Delaware alone, 1,400 adults die each year from smoking and the annual health care costs caused directly by smoking exceed $530 million.

Earlier this year, Senator Carper initiated an inquiry into how health insurers in Delaware were providing coverage for services to help quit smoking. The inquiry found that health insurers offering plans on Delaware’s health insurance marketplace are providing coverage for tobacco cessation services consistent with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

“Kicking a tobacco habit is hard, and individuals often struggle to do it on their own. That’s why I’m so pleased the Affordable Care Act has created programs that help people quit smoking through their health insurance policies,” 
said Ranking Member Carper. “Health insurance companies in Delaware are providing tools to their customers that are helping them give up their harmful tobacco use, hopefully for good. Delawareans who smoke should contact their doctors and take advantage of these services to quit smoking without paying any out-of-pocket expenses.”

According to the report, health insurers offering on Delaware’s health insurance provide coverage for multiple services to help quit smoking without any out-of-pocket cost or prior approval from an insurance company:
  • Counseling services: Individual, telephone, and group counseling for current smokers.
  • Seven tobacco cessation medications: Over-the-counter nicotine replacement products (skin patches, chewing gum, lozenges), prescription-only nicotine replacement products (nasal spray and inhaler), and prescription medications without nicotine (Chantix and Zyban/Bupropion).

While coverage to help quit smoking is available in Delaware, the inquiry also found that availability of this coverage in other states may vary and that the coverage documents provided by health insurers were not always up-to-date or publicly accessible. Based on these conclusions, the report recommends:

  • The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury should issue clear guidance on tobacco cessation coverage. Updated and clear guidance will provide clear direction that health insurers in every state must cover all seven Food and Drug Administration-approved tobacco cessation medications and all forms of counseling without out-of-pocket costs or prior approval from an insurance company. 
  • Insurers should ensure policy documents are accurate and easily accessible. Coverage documents should be available to consumers while they are shopping for health plans and accurately reflect the coverage provided to help quit smoking. 

The Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirements has helped approximately 76 million Americans with private health insurance gain access to preventive services, including 225,000 residents in Delaware. Approximately 20 percent of adults in Delaware still identify as smokers.

Read the full report here: “Kicking the Habit: How the Affordable Care Act Is Helping Delawareans Quit Smoking.”