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Arizona Senate Approves Smoking Cessation Treatments for State Medicaid Beneficiaries

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 General News J E 4
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PHOENIX, March 18 The Arizona Senate today passedlegislation allowing the state Medicaid program to expend moneys to providesmoking cessation treatments to eligible members. The measure was approved bya vote of 27 to 3.

Currently, Arizona is one of just seven states nationwide that doesn'tcover smoking cessation programs in the state's Medicaid program, which inArizona is the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).

Introduced by Sen. Barbara Leff (R-Dist. 11), Senate Bill 1418 would haveno impact whatsoever on the state's General Fund and would provide benefitsfor nicotine replacement therapies and tobacco use medications approved by theU.S. Food and Drug Administration to eligible AHCCCS beneficiaries who areseeking to quit smoking. Currently, these measures include items such as thenicotine patch, gum and lozenges, as well as medications such as Zyban andChantix, which help ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms and block the effect ofnicotine.

"Helping people to stop smoking will not only benefit the individuals, butwill benefit the State," Leff said. "Smoking causes massive health problems,and the treatments for those diseases are all being paid for by taxpayersthrough the AHCCCS program. Getting people off tobacco will result in asavings for the State and an improvement in the lives of the people served byAHCCCS."

It is estimated that 36 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries are smokers --significantly higher than the national average of 21 percent, according tofigures from the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention.

The measure has been supported by a number of health organizations,including the American Cancer Society. "It is so encouraging to see theArizona Senate recognize the impact of this legislation and work to help ourstate's Medicaid beneficiaries quit smoking," said Colby Bower, director ofgovernment relations of the American Cancer Society in Arizona. "We standstrongly in favor of efforts to help reduce the risk of lung cancer, and othertypes of cancers, among Arizona citizens, particularly when those efforts cancome with such strong economic benefits."

Currently, AHCCCS spends about $316 million each year on smoking-relatedillnesses -- totaling about 14 percent of the system's costs. If fullyimplemented, SB 1418 would make AHCCCS eligible to recover nearly 67 percentof those expenses through federal matching funds.

The measure will next go before the House for consideration.

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a majorhealth problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancerthrough research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and withnational headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions andlocal offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers acrossthe United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345or visit http://www.cancer.org.

SOURCE American Cancer Society
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