FALLS CHURCH, Va. — TRICARE beneficiaries living in the U.S. now have a new weapon in their fight to kick the tobacco habit.
Tobacco cessation medications are now covered through the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery program. The medications are available to beneficiaries with a prescription who are 18 years or older, but not eligible for Medicare.
Though a limited number of cessation medications have previously been available in military hospitals and clinics, beneficiaries trying to kick the habit can now get a wide range of gums, pills, lozenges, patches or nasal sprays delivered free through safe, convenient TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery. For more on using home delivery, visit www.tricare.mil/homedelivery.
Those same medications should also be available soon, also at no cost, through most military clinics and hospitals. As always, patients with a prescription should check ahead for availability of medications and to see if their military facility requires participation in a cessation program or class.
“This is an important step in moving from health care to health through a comprehensive TRICARE tobacco cessation program,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and director of TRICARE Management Activity. “When troops smoke, it diminishes their ability to participate in physical activity and, of course, increases the chance of respiratory disease.”
Tobacco cessation is one of the primary targets for the new Operation Live Well campaign which also addresses weight management and other substance abuse issues. “We must dedicate time and effort to building a fit and ready force and making sure that our beneficiaries, even after they retire, live long and healthy lives,” said Woodson.
TRICARE officials estimated in 2007 that treatment of tobacco-related diseases cost the Department of Defense at least $500 million. Although a health behavior survey of active-duty Service members in 2008 showed a small decline in self-reported tobacco use, at about 31 percent, smoking in the military typically exceeds the overall U.S average for adults. That U.S. average was estimated at 19 percent in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
TRICARE already offers face-to-face counseling benefits and “coaching” assistance through toll-free numbers in all three U.S. TRICARE Regions. An award-winning DoD website — www.Ucanquit2.org — offers a multitude of resources to quit smoking, including a 24/7 live-chat feature. The site is also available to military veterans through collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A Code of Federal Regulations final rule, effective March 29, 2013, authorizes TRICARE to implement a more comprehensive program that includes the smoking cessation medications, as well as tobacco counseling via a toll-free phone line. The quit line will take time to put in place, but the prescription medications are now available through TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery for eligible beneficiaries living in the U.S.
There is an annual limit of two quit attempts under the new program. A third quit attempt may be covered per year with physician justification and preauthorization. For more on covered medications and the TRICARE cessation program, visit www.tricare.mil/quittobacco. For more information about Operation Live Well, visit www.militaryonesource.mil/olw.