N.J. considers making it easier for smokers to get help quitting

(Isaac Brekken/AP Photo, file)

(Isaac Brekken/AP Photo, file)

New Jersey smokers covered by Medicaid could get more help quitting the habit.

A bill advancing in the New Jersey legislature would expand Medicaid coverage for cessation treatment.

About 14 percent of Medicaid recipients in New Jersey smoke, said Corrine Orlando with the American Heart Association.

“It remains the one preventable cause of death, and the New Jersey Medicaid program spends over $1 billion a year just treating smoking-related illnesses,” she said.

Assembly Health Committee chairman Herb Conaway, who is a physician, said easier access to tobacco-cessation services could decrease hospital admissions.

“If we get people to stop, these admissions for emphysema and heart disease, heart attacks, and the like will be lessened, and that certainly will save costs,” said Conaway, D-Burlington.

The legislation calls for providing Medicaid coverage for medications and counseling for tobacco cessation. Right now, many only get coverage for the prescriptions.

Assemblyman Dan Benson said the measure also would remove obstacles that prevent Medicaid recipients from getting services to help them stop smoking.

“Prior authorization. If you tried two times and failed, sometimes they’ll require prior authorization before you can try another time. It often takes more than two times for many people to quit,” said Benson, D-Mercer. “There are other barriers in terms of certain types of methods. They require you to fail on other ones first before you can try them.”

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