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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

GW Study Finds Medicaid Policies that Help Smokers Quit Also Save on Health Care Costs

Medicaid policies that require patients to go for tobacco-cessation counseling before they get a nicotine patch or some other type of anti-smoking drug actually lead to a reduction in the use of such medication, according to a study by Dr. Leighton Ku, professor of health policy and management at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University (GW). Medicaid agencies that adopted the policy did so because they thought it would give smokers a powerful tool to help them quit. But this study suggests that the policy did the opposite — and actually lowered the use of anti-smoking medication by one-quarter to one-third.


Dr. Ku, Erin Brantley, a research associate at Milken Institute SPH, and their colleagues looked at policies that could explain state-level differences in the use of anti-smoking medications by Medicaid patients from 2010 until 2014. They found that some policies, like the counseling requirement, erected an obstacle for some smokers, while other Medicaid policies seemed to help smokers who wanted access to such medication. The team found, for example, that states that covered all types of anti-smoking drugs increased the use of such drugs by as much as 34 percent.

Read more about the study, “How Medicaid and other Public Policies Affect Use of Tobacco Cessation Therapy,” which was published in Preventing Chronic Disease.