Insurance incentives might help smokers quit, study says

Health insurance that pays the full cost of smoking-cessation treatments can increase quit rates, compared to benefit plans that pick up only part of the tab or that offer no cessation benefits at all, according to a new review of studies.

Smokers receiving full benefits were one-and-a-half times more likely to quit successfully and nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to try quitting than those receiving no benefit, according to review authors Janneke Kaper of Maastricht University in the Netherlands and colleagues.

The actual increase in quit rates was slight, however. In studies where a full benefit was compared to no benefit, abstinence rates among smokers rose 2 percentage points, Kaper says.

"In this economically minded time, determining the effectiveness of an intervention is no longer enough to justify its use," Kaper says. "As health care costs increase and resources are limited, it is also important to determine whether financial support for smoking-cessation treatment is cost-effective."

The "relatively low costs" of providing full benefits for smoking cessation varied between $260 and $2,330 per quitter, compared to partial or no benefits, the researchers say.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

Previous research shows that smoking-cessation treatment, including counseling, nicotine replacement products and the antidepressant drug bupropion can increase the chances that a smoker will give up the habit.

But "costs are a significant barrier to the use of smoking-cessation treatment. Healthcare providers may be deterred from offering treatment if they do not receive reimbursement, and patients may be deterred

Contact: Janneke Kaper
Center for the Advancement of Health

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