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FOR RELEASE: July 24, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Free Medicare Stop Smoking Pilot Program Offered to Oklahoma Seniors

Oklahoma is one of seven states selected to participate in a national pilot program to see if Medicare should cover smoking “cessation” as a benefit. The Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality will oversee the pilot program through October 2004. The final enrollment deadline for the program is Sept. 30, 2003.

The Medicare Stop Smoking Program is sponsored nationally by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responsible for Medicare.

“The purpose of this pilot program is to test health promotion options for smoking cessation to determine which is the most effective and feasible for seniors. We hope that many Oklahoma seniors choose to participate and benefit from the free smoking cessation services now being offered,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

Medicare is interested in smoking cessation because smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S., contributing to and worsening heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. In any given year, about half of all current Oklahoma smokers will try to quit smoking.

“Smoking cessation is beneficial to any age,” Beitsch said. “Even after years of heavy smoking, older adults who quit smoking experience rapid improvements in breathing and circulation, and decrease their risk of stroke.”

The Medicare Stop Smoking Program will help policy-makers identify the best way to cover smoking cessation services under Medicare using the following interventions:

  • Medicare reimbursement for provider counseling alone;
  • Medicare reimbursement for provider counseling plus coverage for smoking cessation drugs Bupropion, and the nicotine patch;
  • a telephone counseling Quitline plus coverage for the nicotine patch for selected enrollees; or
  • information only.

About 10,000 senior smokers will be recruited from Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wyoming. To assist in meeting the recruitment goal, Oklahoma is seeking to enroll 792 Medicare beneficiaries by the September 30 deadline. To be eligible, a beneficiary must:

  • be 65 years or older;
  • have Medicare Part B coverage;
  • not be a member of a Medicare managed care plan;
  • have some interest in quitting smoking; and
  • plan to reside in one of the above listed seven states for the next nine months.

For information or to see if you qualify to enroll in the pilot program, call 1-866-65-BEGIN (23446).

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