Medicare offers coverage of prescription drugs aimed at smoking cessation through its prescription drug program known as Medicare Part D. In addition, all Medicare recipients are eligible for up to eight face-to-face tobacco-cessation counseling sessions with a qualified physician or other Medicare-recognized practitioner. Previously, Medicare covered counseling only for recipients who had already been diagnosed with a tobacco-related disease, such as lung cancer or emphysema.

This new coverage comes as part of the Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law, which contained a number of measures focused on preventing certain diseases. Roughly 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries smoke. Treating tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer and COPD is difficult and expensive—between 1995 and 2015, smoking-related conditions are projected to have cost Medicare about $800 billion—so it makes good financial sense to try to prevent them.

Publication Review By: Peter B. Terry, M.D., M.A.

Published: 14 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 14 Aug 2013