Does Health Insurance Cover Quitting Smoking?
Many health insurance plans will help cover quitting smoking. This is good news, as smoking causes many health problems and is a very difficult addiction to kick. When it comes to preventable causes of death, smoking tops the list in the United States. Quitting smoking will help you live longer and have a higher quality of life.
About one-quarter of American adults smoke and the percentage of teens who smoke is even higher. Although around 70% of smokers want to quit, the success rate is low without the help of smoking cessation treatment.
Why do insurance companies now cover quitting smoking?
In the past, many insurance companies did not include smoking cessation in their benefits. This has changed over the years, as more and more information about the harmful effects of smoking is coming out. Employers are realizing that smokers are costing them a lot of money, such as missing sick days and lower productivity. This has resulted in them putting pressure on insurance companies to offer benefits to help smokers quit.
Insurance companies also save money over time by offering smoking cessation as an insurance benefit. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that male smokers will have around $16,000 more in medical expenses over their lifetime than males who don’t smoke, while women smokers have around $18,000 more in medical expenses. If companies can help smokers quit, there will be fewer medical costs to cover over time.
What does quitting smoking entail?
Smoking is extremely addicting, which why it is so difficult for smokers to quit on their own. Because a smoking addiction often has both chemical and mental components, treatments often include both medications and counseling. When it comes to medication for smoking cessation, many programs recommend both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
OTC medications often refer to lozenges, gum, and certain nicotine patches, which help to relieve the symptoms that accompany the withdrawal. Other nicotine replacement therapies such as nasal spray and inhalers are prescription only. There are a number of other prescription drugs that your healthcare provider may recommend to help diminish the urge to smoke, and many of them are outlined by the Food and Drug Administration.
Be aware that prescription drugs, and even the OTC medications, have their own side effects. Research each drug before taking it and, if you are taking medications for other conditions, speak with your doctor to ensure that there is no issue with taking smoking-cessation drugs along with your current medication. If you find that you have issues with smoking-cessation drugs, you may need to lean more heavily on the counseling portion of treatment.
Counseling is often recommended in conjunction with medical therapy to quit smoking. Because there are often emotional reasons and issues as to why someone is addicted to smoking, counseling can help work through these issues and speed along the recovery process.
Some smoking-cessation programs offer self-help or educational materials, while others offer interactive counseling. Interactive methods may include phone calls, group sessions, or one-on-one sessions. The CDC reports that telephone counseling is used more than group or individual counseling sessions. It also reports that counseling over the phone or face-to-face is more effective than the educational materials that some programs have.
Counseling services can vary as to the number of sessions as well as the length of each session. Smokers who get the most benefit from treatment are the ones who have more intensive sessions. Even if your insurance company only covers a few counseling treatments, it is probably worth it in the end to spend some of your own money to attend more and longer sessions.
What do health insurance plans cover for smoking cessation?
Although many insurance plans currently cover some of the costs that accompany quitting smoking, the plans can vary greatly from company to company and even for each individual insurance member. If you decide that you want to quit smoking, contact your insurance company and find out exactly what is covered.
Share Care lays out a number of questions that you should ask your insurance company. Ask about co-pays for all services and products that accompany the program. Ask if NRT, or nonprescription nicotine replacement therapy, is covered and what types―whether they are lozenges, gum, or a patch. Ask if prescription drugs are covered and the length that the insurance benefit lasts, as well as the amount of medication that will be covered.
Check with your insurance company to see what types of programs and counseling are covered. Some insurance companies will only cover phone or Internet counseling programs, while others will cover one-on-one or group counseling programs. You may also need a referral from a healthcare provider in order for your insurance benefits to kick in.
Some insurance companies only cover traditional medical addiction therapies, while others welcome other complementary therapies. Ask your insurance company if it covers hypnosis, acupuncture, herbal therapies, or other alternative smoking-cessation methods.