Seeing a counselor to quit smoking has been previously shown to be quite affective (more so than nicotine patches and gum alone), and now, addiction counseling for smokers will be more accessible to several groups of the population. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) this week announced that Medicare, both parts A and B, will cover treatment for those who want to find a counselor to help quit smoking. Since smoking-cessation counseling has evidence-based proof of effectiveness, it will be covered along with certain prescription medications that are also designed to help people quit smoking.
For those covered by private insurance companies, however, there is currently very little coverage for smoking-cessation counseling. The health insurance legislation passed by Congress earlier this year will require all private insurance companies to provide financial support for smoking-cessation counseling, but this will not go into affect until 2014. However, residents of the state of California might reap these benefits as soon as January 1, 2011 if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a bill requiring insurance companies in the state to cover the treatment.
Tobacco and smoking make up the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States, according to the HSS. In addition to rampant physical health consequences, smoking has been associated with depression, especially in teenagers who use cigarettes in an attempt to self-medicate their hormones and mood swings. While Medicare and private insurance coverage of smoking-cessation therapy are a great move in the right direction, it is important to make sure that adequate counseling is covered by these new provisions. A study from Oregon Health Science University finds that many doctors take their patients off their prescription or counseling regimen sooner than is appropriate to affect true abstinence. The more we understand about not only the physically addictive element of smoking, but also how cognitive behavioral therapy helps people kick the habit, the better we can shape both legislation and insurance coverage around counseling programs that provide the greatest benefit to individuals trying to quit.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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