ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — By using the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, all federal employees and retirees – as well as their spouses and dependents – have full access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments at no out-of-pocket cost.
FEHB covers an estimated 8 million people, including 2.2 million active federal employees, 1.9 million retirees, and almost 4 million spouses and dependents. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management estimates that about 18 percent of current federal employees – or about 400,000 people – smoke, compared with about 20 percent of the general population.
FEHB enrollees who smoke now have access to the kind of cessation treatments that help smokers quit for good.
All FEHB health plans are required to cover the seven FDA-approved cessation medications and individual, group and telephone counseling – the treatments identified as effective in the U.S. Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline ‘Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2014 Update.’
The health plans are required to offer coverage with no copayments, coinsurance, deductibles or annual/lifetime dollar limits.
While medications and counseling can each be effective on their own, they’re even more effective when used in combination. Tobacco users who use both medications and counseling can potentially double to triple their chances of quitting successfully.
FEHB plans are required to cover at least two quit attempts per year, with a minimum of four counseling sessions of at least 30 minutes for each attempt.
However, the new benefit won’t cover over-the-counter medications that are purchased directly by enrollees, only those medications that are prescribed as part of a doctor’s visit or as part of a cessation program are covered.
The FDA-approved first-line medications are as follows:
· Bupropion SR (Zyban)
· Nicotine gum
· Nicotine inhaler
· Nicotine lozenge
· Nicotine nasal spray
· Nicotine patch
· Varenicline (Chantix)