Dispatch: A cruel joke?

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For seniors addicted to smoking — whether they got that way from a YouTube video or not — Medicare is expanding its coverage to include tobacco-cessation counseling for those who haven’t been diagnosed with a tobacco-related disease, the Obama administration announced Wednesday. Previously, Medicare only covered the counseling for patients suffering from a tobacco-related illness.

But ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross says the expansion in coverage probably won’t help the estimated 5.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who smoke to quit. “Evidence-based cessation methods do not include counseling, which has not been shown to have anything more than a minimal effect on helping addicted smokers quit,” he says.

ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan says the expansion in coverage seems “nothing short of pathetic. Attempts to assist smokers quit must focus on satisfying the nicotine addiction by offering it in another form. Simply counseling long-term smokers to get them to quit? A joke — a cruel one at that.”