Think it’s too late to kick the habit? The government doesn’t, and starting next year, it will provide smoking cessation counseling free to those covered by Medicare.
Medicare already covers drugs used to help smokers quit, as well as counseling for those who have developed a smoking-related illness. But the new Medicare Smoking Cessation Program will pay for up to eight counseling sessions from a physician or medical practitioner recognized by the government. Most private insurers already provide counseling for smokers trying to quit.
According to Dr. Barry Straube, Medicare’s chief medical officer, even lifelong smokers can benefit from the program: “The elderly can respond to smoking cessation counseling even if they have been smoking for 30 years or more…We do know we can see a reduction in the death rate and complications from smoking-related illnesses."
Medicare estimates that 4.5 million older people in the U.S. are smokers, or about one in 10. Among the population as a whole, one in five people smoke.
But not everyone thinks smokers deserve a bailout. One outraged commenter on an MSNBC article about the program objected that, “Why waste money on smokers, they chose this addiction. Let them die, more Medicare for the rest of us.”
Even a smoker or two resents the new plan. One commenter said, “Well, well the anti-smokers are at it yet again. I have smoked 3 packs a day for 61 years and outside the false high prices I have had little or very little effects from the bad habit…. At 75 my Doctor insisted that I go in and have a lung test, the results was 89.4% use of my black lungs.”
What do you think: Is the program the right thing to do—or a waste of resources?