Medicare Coverage and Costs

Article excerpt

Besides the rising out-of-pocket cost for elders, the U.S. healthcare burden of tobacco use is extremely high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report "Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs-2007," smoking-related healthcare costs in 2004 exceeded $96 billion in direct medical expenses-plus $97 billion in lost productivity. In 2005, the Society of Actuaries estimated that the effects of exposure to secondhand smoke cost the United States $ 10 billion per year.

Research in the 1990s showed that Medicare spent almost 10% of its entire annual budget on smoking-related illnesses. Today, about 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries smoke. In response to a request from national organization Partnership for Prevention, Medicare began covering smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling in March 2005, although the program covers counseling services only for beneficiaries who are diagnosed with a smoking-related illness or who are taking medicines that tobacco use might affect. Also, Medicare does not pay for over-the-counter smoking-cessation products, such as nicotine patches, or for telephone quitline counseling.

Counseling, available under Medicare Part B (physician and outpatient services), includes a limited number of smoking-cessation visits with a Medicare-approved provider. …