Low-income Minnesotans are disproportionately impacted by tobacco’s harm. According to the national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, there is a direct relationship between smoking rates, income and education levels. Individuals of lower socioeconomic status also have higher tobacco-related disease rates and less access to health care.
“Smoking rates among the general population have fallen,” said Amanda Jansen, Senior Cessation Manager at ClearWay Minnesota. “But we can’t forget about low-income Minnesotans, who still have high rates of addiction, death and disease caused by tobacco use.”
ClearWay Minnesota has been working to expand access to tobacco dependence treatment for Minnesotans covered by Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. While 94 percent of smokers are asked about smoking by health practitioners, fewer than half are referred to quitting help. Expanding access to cessation treatment for this low-income population has the potential to decrease tobacco use – saving lives and money for the state at the same time.
One way this is being accomplished is by focusing on Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists (CTTSs). These are professionals trained to treat individuals seeking to stop using tobacco. CTTSs are increasingly being recruited by health systems to be part of health care teams and deliver care to tobacco-using patients.
Until recently, many CTTSs could not seek reimbursement for delivering cessation treatment to patients. However, our collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Human Services has now opened the door for health systems that employ CTTSs to receive reimbursement for providing cessation counseling for tobacco users covered by Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. These team members must be a CTTS, employed by a physician or by the same provider organization that employs the physician, and meet the supervision requirements of a physician extender as defined by Minnesota Health Care Programs. The new policy will be implemented on November 1.
“This change gives health systems another incentive to talk to their patients about how to quit,” said Jansen. “This means it’s much more likely that low-income Minnesotans will receive treatment and will try to quit.”