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Helping Smokers Stop Saves Money, Study Says

BOSTON — A program that helped low-income Massachusetts residents stop smoking saved $3 for every dollar spent, according to a study from George Washington University published online Friday in the journal PLoS One.

“While we have always known that helping people quit smoking is an investment in their health, this study shows that our efforts are also a sound financial investment for the commonwealth,” Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement. “This represents another positive outcome of health reform in Massachusetts.”

The state’s 2006 health coverage law added a smoking cessation benefit for Medicaid and let members chose from any FDA-approved option. The state promoted the program on the radio and bus ads. George Washington researchers found that members who quit saved three times the cost of the program in fewer heart related hospitalizations after just over one year. The study does not take into account the benefits of avoiding cancer or other long-term smoking related illnesses.

Lois Keithly, who directs the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program, says the study proves prevention programs save money.

“These findings are so strong that they should serve as an encouragement for all the insurance plans to provide a generous cessation benefit and promote the benefit so that smokers know that it exists,” Keithly added.

Keithly adds that 10 percent of health care spending in Massachusetts is on smoking-related diseases and that smoking kills 8,000 residents a year.

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