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New study shows investment in comprehensive insurance benefits for smoking cessation provides return for the economy

A study by the University of Kansas School of Medicine shows a significant cost saving from expanded tobacco cessation coverage for smokers, resulting in an estimated $225 million in economic benefit for the state within 10 years.

The study was commissioned by NAMI-Kansas (National Alliance on Mental Illness), with funding support from the Kansas Health Foundation. The study is based on a proposed expansion of tobacco cessation benefits for private insurance plans and the State Employee Health Plan, which replicates the same expansion for Medicaid recipients approved by the Kansas Legislature in 2018. The expansion included four quit attempts per year, including counseling and medication.

In the study, researchers Tami Gurley-Calvez and Jessica Sand, make the case that smoking cessation programs are an effective strategy to “improve health outcomes, reduce health care burden and decrease the high costs of health care.”

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States and Kansas. “Since smokers and vapers are at higher risk of complications resulting from the coronavirus, there is no better time to consider expanding insurance benefits which cover cessation treatments,” said Rick Cagan, Director of the Behavioral Health Tobacco Project for NAMI Kansas.

The research team projected cost savings for insurers to cover two quit attempts per year, versus four. In the full report, results are presented on an annual basis, as well as cumulative effects over a 10-year period. In the first year, the cost of increasing cessation coverage is about $58 per smoker at the higher level, compared with $32 for the limited two quit attempts per year.

However, beginning at year five, the net economic benefits are much greater with more comprehensive coverage. And at the 10-year mark, the per-person benefit is almost double that of two quit attempts, at $215 and $109.

When calculating direct and indirect benefits of expanded coverage together, researchers estimate the state of Kansas would generate about $225 million in economic benefit within 10 years.

The complete study can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ROI-study.  

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