Mainecare Eliminates Funding of Prescription Anti-Smoking Drugs 

If you are on Mainecare, the state’s version of Medicaid, and you want to quit smoking, it’s going to cost you.A new law took effect Thursday that eliminates all funding for prescription drugs that help people quit smoking.The only exception is for pregnant women.The Maine chapter of the “American Lung Association” says this move is counter-productive and will cost more in medical costs down the road.the “Maine Department of Health and Human Services” says – they cut the duplication and there are still programs out there to help smokers quit.Jim Keithley reports.The struggle to quit smoking just got more difficult for those Mainers on Medicaid.430 thousand dollars was slashed from the smoking cessation program during the last legislative session.It allowed Mainecare recipients to get reimbursed if they chose to go on anti-smoking medications – such as Chantix.”You’re taking one of the most cost-effective services in the Medicaid program, smoking cessation, and you’re eliminating that benefit. It is penny wise and pound foolish.”Ed Miller is with the American Lung Association here in Maine and says the state’s record of helping Mainers quit is outstanding.He says the anti-smoking medications can help avert astronomical medical cost down the road when patients get sick due to smoking-related illnesses.”We’ve got to make some tough decisions and this unfortunately was one of them.”Stefanie Nadeau is the Director of Mainecare Services at the DHHS. She says the 15 thousand people taking part in this program will not be left out in the cold. “There are services available through the Maine Center for Disease Control. There is a quit help line. There is some funding available for nicotine replacement therapy. So there are funds available when individuals do make the decision that they are ready to quit, there are funds still available.” Ed Miller says nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch, inhalers and gum – don’t work to the extent that prescription drugs do.”Really what we should be doing here is making it easier for people to quit smoking if they’re on the Medicaid program if we really want to save money, not make it harder, not put more barriers and not eliminate funding for something as critical as the medications which we know work.”Critics say this decision to cut the smoking cessation program will distinguish Maine as “the only state in the nation” to eliminate Medicaid coverage for prescription drugs that help smokers quit, while proponents say others states will likely follow.