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MassHealth helps smokers quit, but cuts threaten program

Jeremy C. Fox | 11/25/2009, 4:48 a.m.

“My fear is that with less funding now we’re going to see a reduction in the public health impact,” she said. Her group is lobbying the state legislature to restore the lost funding and to expand the benefit to Commonwealth Care as well as MassHealth.

Scott B. Keays, M.P.H., public policy manager for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts, echoed Breslau’s concerns. “I think the people who were able to access the benefit will certainly hopefully be able to continue on the road to recovery,” Keays said, “but because of the budget cuts I’m not sure whether or not the Tobacco Control Program has the resources necessary to keep up the awareness about this program so that folks know where the tools are that they need to quit.”  

The benefit was introduced in July 2006 as part of the state’s massive health care reforms, and many public health advocates are hoping the health care reform effort in Washington will embrace similar programs. “If health reform goes through,” said Sokolove, “my guess is that more and more public health initiatives and more and more support for primary care, particularly for indigent and low-income people, will take place.”

Keithly says the announcement has already brought national attention to the benefit. “The promise of actually demonstrating that prevention measures save health care costs has been enormous,” she said. “We’ve gotten calls from four senators who are interested in it, in terms of the national debate.”