Study Suggests Medicaid Patients Value Physicians’ Recommendations Regarding Smoking Cessation

man smoking in vehicle

A new study finds that Medicaid patients who are smokers give better ratings to physicians and plans that offer more support and advice about cessation. The research suggests that both clinicians and Medicaid managed care plans can improve their efforts to motivate Medicaid patients to quit smoking.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. and adult Medicaid beneficiaries are about twice as likely to smoke as other Americans,” says Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, professor and director of the George Washington University Center (GW) for Health Policy Research and the senior author of the new research. “Helping Medicaid beneficiaries quit smoking can improve their health and lower Medicaid costs, a critical public health goal.”

Smoking related diseases comprise 15% of Medicaid expenditures. according to research published in 2015 by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All state Medicaid programs cover at least some smoking cessation benefits.

“Our research shows that more frequent and robust patient-physician discussions about smoking and cessation could be mutually beneficial,” says Nikhil Holla, an MPH student in the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) and the paper’s first author.  “Patients may gain motivation to better manage their smoking and physicians and managed care plans may gain better satisfaction ratings and healthier patients.”

The GW research team analyzed nationally representative data in the Nationwide Adult Medicaid Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, which they merged with state and Medicaid tobacco policy variables. They found a positive relationship between satisfaction with personal physicians and more frequent advice about quitting smoking, including cessation medications and other strategies.  Marsha Lillie-Blanton, DrPH, MHS, now a member of the Milken Institute SPH faculty, helped develop this survey when she was an official at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Physicians’ Recommendations to Medicaid Patients About Tobacco Cessation” is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.