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OBJECTIVE—To assess the impact and costs of coverage for tobacco dependence treatment benefits with no patient cost sharing for smokers with employer sponsored coverage in two large independent practice association (IPA) model health maintenance organisations (HMOs) in California, USA.
METHODS—A randomised experimental design was used. 1204 eligible smokers were randomly assigned either to the control group, which received a self-help kit (video and pamphlet), or to the treatment group, which received the self-help kit and fully covered benefits for over the counter (OTC) nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gum and patch, and participation in a group behavioural cessation programme with no patient cost sharing.
RESULTS—The quit rates after one year of follow up were 18% in the treatment group and 13% in the control group (adjusted odd ratio (OR) 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1 to 2.4), controlling for health plan, sociodemographics, baseline smoking characteristics, and use of bupropion. Rates of quit attempts (adjusted OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.8) and use of nicotine gum or patch (adjusted OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.6 to 3.2) were also higher in the treatment group. The annual cost of the benefit per user who quit ranged from $1495 to $965 or from $0.73 to $0.47 per HMO member per month.
CONCLUSIONS—Full coverage of a tobacco dependence treatment benefit implemented in two IPA model HMOs in California has been shown to be an effective and relatively low cost strategy for significantly increasing quit rates, quit attempts, and use of nicotine gum and patch in adult smokers.
Keywords: health insurance; cessation treatments; health maintenance organisations