The new year has begun and, like in other years, many of us plan to make healthier choices. With an adult smoking rate of almost 20 percent in Georgia, there’s no better time than now to make a plan to quit smoking. The American College of Physicians, the second-largest physician organization in the country, has long promoted smoking-cessation programs to improve health.
Quitting tobacco, or stopping smoking, is one of the single most difficult things for someone to do, yet it’s also the best decision you can make to positively impact your health.
The state of Georgia should be applauded for making the decision to cover smoking-cessation benefits for state employees. This change in policy began Jan. 1. It will save lives and taxpayer dollars.
While the state has made the decision to help state employees quit smoking, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to our Medicaid population. Georgia offers no smoking-cessation option to Medicaid enrollees, despite the fact that this group has twice the smoking rate as the general population. By not offering options to help this population stop smoking, Georgia is taking a huge gamble with both lives and dollars.
Our neighbors to the north in Tennessee, with the help of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, have decided to take this step and save the state money.
According to The Tennessean, “The state’s Medicaid program will cover over-the-counter products, such as nicotine gum and patches, as well as prescription medicines. Health workers welcomed the new policy, which was approved and funded this year by the legislature. Besides improving people’s health, the coverage change is anticipated to save the state money. “If I save one patient from having bad pneumonia and lying in bed for 20 days, that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars,’’ Dr. Mathew Ninan said.
While our state leaders should be applauded for taking the significant step of covering state employees, 2012 should be the year in which they resolve to follow the lead of 48 other states in the nation and provide smoking cessation treatments to those on Medicaid. Kicking the habit clearly helps with one’s quality and length of life, but it makes economic sense as well. Employers are realizing this fact and are taking steps to save money by offering cessation treatments to their employees.
The American College of Physicians has long supported efforts to ensure patients and providers have the tools necessary to help smokers successfully quit. The Georgia Chapter of ACP will endeavor to support Smoking Cessation programs. It makes health sense and saves taxpayer cents. And that New Year’s resolution would be good for everyone.