Leveling the Playing Field: Mailing Pharmacotherapy to Medicaid Members Who Smoke

Published:November 02, 2022DOI:


      Smoking rates differ by insurance type; rates are often double for Medicaid and uninsured compared with that for Medicare or privately insured. State-funded tobacco quitlines’ provision of free nicotine replacement therapy varies. In some states, Medicaid beneficiaries must obtain nicotine replacement therapy from a physician, whereas others get nicotine replacement therapy mailed to them.


      This secondary analysis examined the differences in the source and use of cessation treatment by insurance type and their impacts on cessation. The parent trial excluded people who were pregnant, had private insurance, or were not ready to quit. From June 1, 2017 to November 15, 2020, a total of 1,944 low-income people who smoke daily completed a baseline survey and were enrolled in a quitline program; 1,380 (71%) completed a 3-month follow-up. Analyses were completed in August 2022. Participants were classified as Medicaid/dual (55%), Medicare/Veterans Affairs (14%), or uninsured (31%). Nine months into the trial, owing to a system error, the quitline provided nicotine replacement therapy to all study participants regardless of insurance type.


      Before error versus after error, Medicaid participants reported lower nicotine replacement therapy receipt (3.2% vs 50.8%) and use (32.4% vs 52.6%). The odds of quitting (7-day point prevalence) by 3 months increased for people who smoke who completed more quitline calls and used any (36% quit) versus used no (20% quit) pharmacotherapy, but quitting did not differ by insurance classifications (27%–29%). Getting and using nicotine replacement therapy from the quitline produced the highest quit rates (38%).


      Results illustrate the benefit of receiving nicotine replacement therapy from the quitline on cessation. Mailing nicotine replacement therapy to all people who smoke should be standard practice to reduce smoking disparities.
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