1996 Working Group Finds Insurers and Health Plans Not Supporting Smoking-Cessation Treatment

Working group on tobacco dependence treatment policy

In 1996, Pinney Associates, Inc., a Bethesda, Md. health consulting firm. oversaw the creation of a working group on tobacco dependence treatment policy comprised of 18 experts in health policy, smoking cessation, and reimbursement.

The working group's goals were to expand knowledge about reimbursement for smoking cessation treatment and identify strategies to increase availability and accessibility of treatment.

The working group convened in July 1996 for a one-day meeting designed to examine the state of knowledge in the field and discuss strategies to increase access to treatment.

The working group's findings and recommendations, as well as the results from a literature review, were summarized in a report by Pinney Associates.

Key Findings

  • Few insurers offer coverage for tobacco-dependence treatment.

  • Many health plans and providers question the efficacy of available treatments.

  • Quality and performance standards for treatment are lacking.

  • Smoking-cessation treatment is not incorporated into the health care delivery system.

  • The working group recommended several areas for potential action and further research. These included:

    • Broad dissemination of federal treatment guidelines established by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR).
    • The adoption of smoking-cessation treatment among its performance indicators by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), an HMO accrediting body (see the Program Results Report on ID# 028757).
    • Continued research to explore optimal treatments and preferences among those who seek treatment.
    • Education for health care providers to underscore the role they play in smoking cessation.
    • An exploration of opportunities to offer smoking-cessation treatment in existing public health initiatives and in workplace health-promotion programs.

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