Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to address healthcare disparities in the United States.
The legislation includes disparities caused by tobacco use, a move applauded by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Under the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2020, the government would double tobacco taxes and expand coverage for tobacco cessation treatments under Medicaid and private health plans.
Medicaid enrollees would receive tobacco cessation coverage without pre-authorization or cost-sharing. Services include seven FDA-approved medications and individual, group, and telephone counseling.
Currently, 15 states cover all available treatments, but only two have no barriers to access.
“While the U.S. has made enormous progress in reducing smoking, there are large disparities in who still smokes and who suffers from tobacco-related diseases and death,” Matthew Myers, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president, said. “Smoking rates are highest among people with lower income and less education, those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, American Indians/Alaska Natives, residents of the Midwest and South, LGBT Americans, and people with mental illness.”
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the bill.
U.S. Rep. Jesus Garcia (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.