Smoking Cessation Benefits

Smoking Cessation Benefits

Smoking Cessation Benefits

The impact that tobacco use has on employers throughout the country is substantial, mostly due to increased medical expenses and lost productivity. Employees who smoke have a higher risk of many chronic medical conditions, are absent more often, and have lower productivity due to smoke breaks throughout the day. Think of the tremendous burden that smokers may be putting on your bottom line.

Quitting smoking is not an easy feat for most smokers. Nicotine addiction is a serious condition that requires targeted and often multifaceted treatment, including prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication and counseling. Studies have shown that employees are much more likely to quit when smoking cessation resources are included as paid benefits in their health plan. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that smoking cessation therapy is the most cost-effective health benefit that employers can offer.

Designing a Smoking Cessation Benefit

Many managed care organizations and pharmacy benefit managers are starting to offer smoking cessation components to their plans. During your next plan renewal, inquire about smoking cessation options for your plan design. Off-renewal, you may also be able to add a benefit rider to support smoking cessation.

Based on studies reviewed by the CDC, they offer recommendations for smoking cessation coverage. First, the plan or rider should address the number of quit attempts covered per yearthe CDC recommends at least two per plan member. Also, the CDC advocates a two-pronged approach to coverage:

  1. Behavioral Modification: This type of therapy could include telephone, internet, or in-person individual or group counseling sessions.
    • .For example, you could choose to cover four annual 30-minute counseling sessions, for each quit attempt, per plan member.
    • .This type of therapy is extremely important to help smokers address and change their habits and behaviors associated with smoking, plus receive ongoing support during a challenging time.
    • .Counseling has been shown to increase the rate of successful quitting.
  2. Prescription/OTC Drug: There are many prescription and OTC drug therapies available to help smokers quit.
    • .Consider lowering or eliminating copays and deductibles associated with these drugs.
    • .These medications can be pricey, and lack of coverage could deter some people from utilizing them in their quit attempt. Covering smoking cessation drugs in your benefit plan will not only improve the quit rate among those attempting to quit, but also may encourage others to trying quitting in the first place.

Other Actions to Take

In addition to the suggestions above for your plan design, there are other strategies you can implement through your health plan and in your workplace to help promote smoking cessation:

  • .Establish smoke-free policies throughout your workplace
  • .Incentive programs for employees who quit and stay smoke-free
  • .Flexible spending program to reimburse smoking cessation counseling and prescription drugs (if your plan does not cover these items)
  • .On-site counseling options (or counseling referrals)
  • .Employee communications for education, promoting your program, and encouragement for those quitting
  • .Participating in special events, such as the Great American Smokeout
  • .Health risk assessments to identify employee smokers
  • .Develop other creative ways to offer personal support and encouragement in the workplace for employees who are quitting
  • .Consider including spouses and dependents in your smoking cessation benefits

ROI for Smoking Cessation Benefits

Many employers do not realize the full cost of smoking to their company. Smokers are much more likely to develop serious chronic medical conditions, visit the doctor more often, be absent from work with an illness, or have a short- or long-term disabilityall of which are very costly for your company's health plan and productivity.

In fact, smokers cost private employers in the United States an extra $5,816 per year compared to nonsmokers, according to researchers at Ohio State University. Of that amount, $3,077 comes from smoking breaks, since smokers, on average, take approximately five breaks a day compared to the three breaks reserved for most workers. Excess health care expenses account for $2,056, and the remaining costs are due to increased absenteeism and lost productivity.

Implementing a smoking cessation program and incorporating benefits into your health plan can lower the number of employees who smoke and dramatically affect your bottom line now and in the future.

This copy of ThinkTank Insurance Partners Plan Designs is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice.

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