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Uninsured and Medicaid Recipients Smoke More Than Private Insureds


American adults who are uninsured or on Medicaid smoke at rates more than double those for adults with private health insurance or Medicare, according to a recent study published by the CDC. Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, resulting in approximately 480,000 premature deaths and more than $300 billion in direct health care expenditures and productivity losses each year.

 

Data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show that 27.9 percent of uninsured adults and 29.1 percent of Medicaid recipients currently smoke. By contrast, 12.9 percent of adults with private insurance and 12.5 percent of those on Medicare currently smoke. Adults aged 18–24 years experienced the greatest decrease in cigarette smoking prevalence. However, recent reports suggest that use of non-cigarette tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and hookahs, is common among youth and young adults. The extent to which emerging tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, might have contributed to the observed decline in cigarette smoking in recent years is uncertain.

 

“Smoking kills half a million Americans each year and costs more than $300 billion,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “This report shows real progress helping American smokers quit and that more progress is possible.”

 

The study reported that the prevalence of cigarette smoking among U.S. adults declined from 20.9 percent to 16.8 percent from 2005 to 2014, including a full percentage-point decline between 2013 and 2014 alone. The considerable drop in the overall adult smoking rate over time shows marked progress toward achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal of reducing the cigarette smoking rate to 12 percent or lower. Another major finding was that the average number of cigarettes smoked per day among daily smokers declined from 16.7 in 2005 to 13.8 in 2014 — driven by declines in the proportion of daily smokers who smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day.

 

The study found other differences in smoking rates consistent with previous studies. In 2014, prevalence of cigarette smoking was higher among these groups:

 

  • Males (18.8 percent vs. 14.8 percent for females)
  • Adults ages 25-44 years (20.0 percent)
  • Multiracial (27.9 percent) or American Indian/Alaska Natives (29.2 percent)
  • People with a General Education Development certificate (43.0 percent)
  • People who live below the federal poverty level (26.3 percent)
  • People who live in the Midwest (20.7 percent)
  • People who have a disability/limitation (21.9 percent)
  • People who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (23.9 percent)

 

“These findings underscore the importance of ensuring that proven strategies to prevent and reduce tobacco use reach the entire population, particularly vulnerable groups,” said Brian King, Ph.D., deputy director for research translation, CDC Office on Smoking and Health. “Comprehensive smoke-free laws, higher prices for tobacco products, high-impact mass media campaigns, and barrier-free access to quitting help are all important. They work to reduce the enormous health and financial burden of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure among Americans.”

 

Changes in the U.S. health-care system continue to offer opportunities to improve the use of clinical preventive services among adults. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is increasing the number of Americans with health insurance and is expected to improve tobacco cessation coverage.

 

Currently, neither private insurers nor state Medicaid programs consistently provide comprehensive coverage of evidence-based cessation treatments. In 2015, although all 50 state Medicaid programs covered some tobacco cessation treatments for some Medicaid enrollees, only nine states covered individual and group counseling and all seven FDA-approved cessation medications for all Medicaid enrollees. Cessation coverage is used most when smokers and health-care providers know which cessation treatments are covered.

 

Sustained comprehensive state tobacco control programs funded at CDC-recommended levels could accelerate progress toward reducing the health and economic burden of tobacco-related diseases in the United States. However, during 2015, states will spend only $490.4 million (1.9%) of combined revenues of $25.6 billion from settlement payments and tobacco taxes for all states on comprehensive tobacco control programs, representing less than 15% of the CDC-recommended level of funding for all states combined. Only two states (Alaska and North Dakota) currently fund tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels.

 

See the CDC Announcement

 

See the CDC Report

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives April 2015 Report: COPD Liability Risks: When Taking a Breath Is Not Easy

 

See the Medical Law Perspectives July 17, 2015, Blog: Blaming the Victim: Challenges of COPD Treatment and Subsequent Lawsuits

 

 

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