As we’ve noted in past Psychotherapy Finances articles, smoking cessation is a viable niche market for some therapists, particularly those who have relationships with physicians or hospitals.
Now, there may be additional incentives for offering these services after the Obama administration approved therapy sessions for seniors on Medicare who are trying to quit smoking.
That’s not a small market: About 4.5 million Americans 65 and older smoke according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Another 1 million are younger than 65 but eligible for Medicare benefits.
Prior to the announcement this week, seniors could get smoking cessation counseling under Medicare but only if it was part of treatment for an existing tobacco-related illness.
But now Medicare will cover two tobacco-cessation attempts each year – including four individual therapy sessions per try.
“We know that older adults and other Medicare beneficiaries can be successful in their struggles to stop using tobacco, as long as they have the right resources available to them,” Assistant Secretary of Health Howard Koh said in an annoucement Wednesday. “Today’s decision will assure that beneficiaries can access that help from qualified physicians and other Medicare-recognized practitioners.”
The change is part of the administration’s new emphasis on preventive care. The ideas is that dollars spent now will result in savings later – something that makes a lot of sense when it comes to smoking.
Tobacco use causes about one of five deaths in the U.S. annually, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. On average, adult tobacco users die 14 years earlier than non-users.
Tobacco-related illnesses will cost Medicare about $800 billion between 1995 and 2015, According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.