Smoking Cessation Saves Money

Today’s Managing Health Care Costs Indicator is $14.7 million

Massachusetts just announced that researchers at George Washington University have completed an evaluation of the state’s smoking cessation program –and found it offered a 3:1 return on investment.

Here’s a link to the peer-reviewed journal article.   

This study uses previously reported decreases in rates of cardiovascular hospitalizations among participants, and then monetizes these. The decreases are jaw dropping:
-        46% for acute heart attack
-        49% for heart disease
-        32% for nonspecific chest pain
Program cost was about $183 per participant (for drugs and counseling), while decreased hospitalizations were valued at $571.

The strength of this analysis is only moderate. The weakness of this design is that those who were motivated to use the program were more likely to have lower costs than the general Medicaid population anyway. I would have liked to see the original study show total cardiovascular diease totals, to help insure that this finding does not represent selection bias.  Still – there were likely to be other health claims cost benefits which are not counted in this analysis.

Most states have used little or none of their tobacco settlement money to encourage smoking cessation. Massachusetts has gained real benefit by continuing to fund smoking cessation. States which are cutting smoking cessation programs due to their budget shortfalls can look forward to higher medical claims costs.