Blunt Rochester Re-Introduces Quit Because of COVID-19 Act
Washington, March 23, 2021 | Andrew Donnelly (302-893-4406)
WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced legislation that would expand tobacco cessation coverage to all Medicaid beneficiaries during the COVID-19 public health emergency and beyond.
“Medicaid enrollees have disproportionately high rates of smoking, which puts them at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee. “This enhanced coverage will not only improve access to comprehensive cessation services, but it will help beneficiaries’ avoid serious health complications while reducing the health care costs associated with smoking. There couldn’t be a more critical time to make sure that everyone has the best chance to quit smoking successfully.”
"Tobacco use continues to be a grave threat to public health, with evidence directly showing that smokers and vapers are at higher risk to suffer severe complications from COVID-19. Unfortunately, Medicaid enrollees have disproportionately high rates of smoking, and yet many state Medicaid programs do not cover all evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Our timely, bipartisan legislation will improve access to a full array of proven tobacco cessation treatments at this critical time and assist Medicaid beneficiaries in reducing the risk of serious COVID-19 related complications."
Enrollees in Medicaid have disproportionately high rates of smoking – twice the rate of those with private health insurance -- which places them at a higher risk of experiencing severe complications from COVID-19, an acute respiratory disease that attacks the lungs. While all state Medicaid programs cover some level of tobacco cessation services, many do not cover all evidence-based tobacco cessation services and include barriers to accessing these services. Improved access to tobacco cessation is an effective way to reduce the health and medical costs associated with smoking. After Massachusetts enhanced its Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation and conducted a campaign to increase awareness of this coverage, smoking rates in its Medicaid program decreased from 38 percent to 28 percent over two-and-a-half years. For every $1 that Massachusetts spent on its tobacco cessation benefit, $3.12 in health care savings were achieved.
Enhancing Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation services will give Medicaid beneficiaries the best chance to quit successfully, potentially help them avoid the most serious consequences of COVID-19, and reduce health costs associated with smoking. The Quit Because of COVID-19 Act will improve Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to comprehensive tobacco cessation coverage with no cost-sharing and promote smoking cessation through public health education campaigns during the public health emergency and beyond. The bill is supported by The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and over 40 additional public health and consumer advocacy organizations.
“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act and applauds Congresswoman Blunt Rochester for her leadership in reintroducing this bill in the new Congress. This legislation will ensure that every Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollee has access to the full array of tobacco cessation treatments that have proven to be successful in helping people to quit. As smokers are at greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19, this legislation is not only tremendously timely, but urgently needed. It is a smart investment in preventive care, helps address health disparities, and will provide much needed assistance for Medicaid enrollees who smoke at more than twice the rate of those on private insurance,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“People who smoke or use e-cigarettes face a higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19, in addition to the long-established cardiovascular risks of tobacco use,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “But many state Medicaid programs do not cover all evidence-based tobacco cessation services. This bill would give Medicaid beneficiaries and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees the best shot at quitting a deadly habit and reducing the risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. We thank Reps. Blunt Rochester and Fitzpatrick for their leadership and urge swift passage of this important bill.”
“Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of cancer diagnoses and deaths. If we’re going to reduce suffering and death from this disease, we must reduce tobacco use. By ensuring individuals on Medicaid have access to all FDA-approved cessation services to help them avoid and quit this deadly product, this bill would save lives and help reduce health disparities nationwide,” said Lisa Lacasse, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
“The American Lung Association is pleased to support Congresswoman Blunt Rochester’s Quit Because of COVID-19 Act’,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Smokers have a higher risk of severe disease from the virus that causes COVID-19. This bi-partisan bill will make it easier for millions of low-income Americans to quit.”
“Pediatricians have long been speaking out about the dangers that tobacco products pose to the health of children and teens. As we continue to combat this virus – a highly contagious respiratory illness – it is essential that we do everything we can to keep children healthy and safe, and that includes efforts to help our patients stop smoking and vaping. The American Academy of Pediatrics applauds Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) for her leadership on the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act, which would ensure therapies to help young people quit tobacco products are covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program during this pandemic and beyond. Lawmakers must act quickly to pass this important legislation,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP.
The Quit Because of COVID-19 Act will: