US could save $2.6 BILLION a year if just 1% of Medicaid users quit smoking, study finds
- While just 14 percent of the American general population smokes, over a quarter of people on Medicaid do
- Taxpayers shoulder 60 percent of the burden of smoking-related health care costs in the US
- If just one percent of Medicaid patients quit it would save states between $2.5 and $630 million a year, a University of California, San Francisco study found
If just one percent of current smokers on Medicaid quit, it would save the program $2.6 billion, a new study suggests.
Smoking is at an all-time low in the US, but rates are considerably higher among the Americans insured through the publicly subsidizes health care plan.
And smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death worldwide – as well as the costs associated with these fatal chronic illnesses.
But if just 74,000 Americans – just 4,000 more than live in a square mile of Manhattan – on Medicaid stopped smoking, it would save each state an average of $25 million a year, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), research found.
Smoking costs the US taxpayers nearly $40 billion a year, but if just one percent of people on Medicaid quit, it would save the program $2.6 billion annually, new research suggests
Currently, 14 percent of the general American population smoke, yet over a quarter (24.5 percent) of Medicaid recipients still use cigarettes.
Medicaid recipients tend to be poorer and have higher rate of mental illness – and people in both of these categories are targeted relentlessly by tobacco industry marketing.
That quarter of Medicaid recipients is at much higher risk for not only lung cancer, other chronic lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer and problems in just about every part of the body.
According to a 2014 study American taxpayers shoulder about percent of the total economic burden of these and more smoking-related diseases, which cost Medicaid about $39.6 billion a year.
Smoking cessation isn’t just in the best interest of smokers – it’s in the interest of Americans’ tax dollars.
HOW MUCH STATES COULD SAVE IF 1% OF SMOKERS ON MEDICAID QUIT
The amount of money each state stands to save if one percent if its Medicaid-insured smokers quit varies from state-to-state depending on their population and number of smokers.
Some of the top savers would be:
- California: $630.2 million
- New Mexico: $381.4 million
- Texas: $153.6 million
To capture how much money smoking cessation has the potential to save Americans, the UCSF researchers looked at 2017 data on how many Medicare recipients in each state smoked.
Previous studies had determined that every one percent of quitters saves about 0.118 percent of what the US spends per person on health care.
State populations and smoking rates vary widely in the US – so the amount of money they stand to save if smokers quit does too.
Despite the fact that California’s smoking rates are below the national average (11 percent of its population smokes) the state has the most to gain from smoking cessation.
According to the new study, if the rate of smoking among California Medicaid recipients dropped from 15.4 percent to 14.4 percent, the state would save a whopping $630.2 million in a single year.
Even in states with the smallest populations and high rates of smoking, there are considerable savings to be had.
If 40.3 percent of Medicaid smokers in South Dakota quit, the state would still save $2.5 million annually.
‘There is no question that reducing smoking is associated with reduced health costs, but it’s commonly assumed that it takes years to see these savings, which has discouraged many states from prioritizing helping smokers quit,’ said study author Dr Stanton Glantz, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
But he points out that, in fact, the diseases that kill most smokers are not lung or other cancers – which take a long time to develop – but heart attack and stroke, which happen more quickly, and are costly but more preventable.
And smoking cessation programs are not nearly as costly as Medicaid providers seem to believe, says Dr Glantz.
‘You only have to prevent a few heart attacks to pay for one of these cessation programs,’ he explains.