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For Release: August 7, 2008
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Tobacco Cessation Benefit Provides Major Return on Investment

In its first six months, a new insurance benefit to offer more tobacco cessation assistance to state employees has helped an estimated 570 state workers successfully quit using tobacco.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health estimates this action has resulted in about $2.2 million in annual savings, or $3,800 per successful quitter, through reduced health care costs and increased employee productivity.

The new benefit became effective on Jan. 1 this year when the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board (OSEEGIB) began offering expanded tobacco cessation coverage as part of an effort to promote a healthier state employee workforce and reduce costs. Thus far, OSEEGIB’s investment in providing the expanded coverage has totaled about $367,000, or $148 per recipient. The estimated savings reflect the latest research on lower medical costs and higher productivity among workers.

“These savings represent a six-fold return on the state’s investment and will continue to accrue each year,” said Dr. Mike Crutcher, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Health and Commissioner of Health. “This should be a call to action for all health plans and employers to help workers quit tobacco. It’s clear that physical health and fiscal health go hand-in-hand.”

State workers enrolled in the HealthChoice group insurance plan have the option of receiving two full 90-day courses of any FDA-approved prescription tobacco cessation product each year. Participants may also choose to call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) to further improve their chances of success by working with a personal quit coach to overcome triggers related to nicotine addiction. The Helpline provides free tobacco cessation assistance to all Oklahomans.

“Health insurance costs are directly related to the health and wellness of our citizenry,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland. “For the benefit of our citizens and state, all health plans and employers would certainly do well to follow OSEEGIB’s lead.”

“This simply makes good business sense. It’s much less expensive to prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lung disease than to pay for all the medical care to treat these diseases,” said OSEEGIB Chair Richard N. Womack. “Most smokers are already trying to quit and a little help goes a long way.”

Tobacco cessation coverage is one of several recommendations in a new toolkit prepared for Oklahoma employers titled Make It Your Business for a Strong and Healthy Oklahoma. The toolkit guides employers through the process of creating fiscally and physically fit businesses and assists them in qualifying for recognition as a “Certified Healthy Business,” a fast-growing program co-sponsored by the State Chamber, the Oklahoma Academy, and the State Turning Point Council.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Oklahoma. About one in four Oklahoma adults smoke. In any given year, most make at least one serious attempt to completely quit smoking.

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