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Rural Blog: Few on Medciaid take advantage of smoking-cessation benefits, especially in South

Only 10 percent of adult smokers on Medicaid received tobacco cessation medications in 2013, and fewer than 5 percent did in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas, says a study by George Washington University.

The numbers were especially low in impoverished areas, especially the South, Denise-Marie Ordway reports for Journalist’s Resource.

(GWU map: Medicaid tobacco cessation levels)

(GWU map: Medicaid tobacco cessation levels)

At least 40 percent of adult Medicaid patients in Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia were smokers in 2013, compared to 30 percent nationally. Medicaid spent $103 million nationwide on medication to help smokers quit in 2013.

About 26 percent of adults living below the federal poverty line smoke, compared to 17 percent of overall adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers found that “the number of prescriptions for smoking cessation medications rose from almost 1.5 million in 2010 to almost 1.8 million in 2011 and then declined to less than 1.7 million in 2013,” Ordway writes.

“The authors note that promoting tobacco cessation should be an important policy objective for Medicaid, but medications prescribed to help people quit smoking are ‘seriously underused’ among Medicaid enrollees in most states.” The authors wrote: “Most smokers want to quit but need help both to try and to succeed. The gains from even modest reductions in smoking or from moderate periods of abstinence can be substantial.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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