« Return to Media Room

JUNE 11, 2009

CONTACT:  Dianne Danowski Smith, (503) 201-7019
Dr. Chuck Bentz, Fanno Creek Clinic, (503) 323-1038 - digital pager

Oregon joins six other states in mandating health insurance coverage for tobacco cessation medicines and programs

(Portland, Ore.) - The estimated 544,000 Oregonians who are addicted to tobacco products got a little help today from state lawmakers. By a 43 to 17 margin, the Oregon House of Representatives voted in favor of Senate Bill 734, giving insurance plan members, ages 15 and older, access to and coverage of tobacco cessation therapy, medicines and programs.

Said Dr. Charles Bentz, an internal medicine physician and tobacco cessation researcher who participated in work leading up to this legislation, "I have worked for more than a decade, along with many others, to see this day come to fruition. Access to and coverage of cessation programs are both absolutely imperative if we hope to make a difference in helping people to quit smoking or chewing."

The bill has now passed by a wide margin in both chambers. Oregon health insurer Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon testified in favor of the legislation.

"As a smoker, I can attest to the difficulty of trying to kick the habit more than once," Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, a key supporter of SB 734 told his colleagues on the House floor today. "The bipartisan support that led to the bill's passage is testament to the toll that smoking has taken on our society. We will save lives with this legislation."

This legislation was created directly from the new recommendations of the U.S. Public Health Service guidelines, which provide proof that "tobacco dependence treatments are both clinically effective and highly cost effective." These treatments can include, but are not limited to:

"We believe that this is a huge step to help end the power of tobacco addiction in patients' lives and save health resources in significant ways," said Moe Spencer, state director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Oregon Medicaid enrollees have had access to mandated coverage for tobacco cessation programs since 1998. "This bill provides far-reaching help, so those with diabetes get benefits to end the destruction of smoking and tobacco use," says Sally Spaid Norby, executive director of the American Diabetes Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Support from the organizations such as the Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and the March of Dimes was also key to passage of this legislation. "Pregnant women who smoke multiply the potential of birth defects and harm both mother and child," said Joanne Rogovoy, program director at the March of Dimes' Greater Oregon Chapter. The March of Dimes organization estimates that 1 in every 10 women smoke during their pregnancy.

At an estimated cost to insurers of 10 cents per member per month, the payment for smoking cessation programs is a fraction of the nationwide cost of smoking, recently pegged at $157 billion (approximately one-half of that total, or $75 billion, is spent on direct medical care related to smoking), as cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bill received support from the American Cancer Society of Oregon, American Diabetes Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, American Heart Association Pacific Mountain Affiliate, American Lung Association of Oregon, March of Dimes Greater Oregon Chapter, Oregon Medical Association, Upstream Public Health and the Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon.

For more information and quotes, contact:

« Return to Media Room