Utah Legislator to Consider Charging Medicaid Users for Smoking

A Utah state lawmaker wants to make Medicaid users who smoke pay higher co-payments. If enacted, it might be the first law of its kind.
by | January 5, 2012

In Utah, a state lawmaker wants to make Medicaid users who smoke pay higher co-payments.

“I’m not trying to be mean to smokers,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Paul Ray, told the Salt Lake Tribune. “But people who are voluntarily putting their health at risk ought to pay more toward their health care.”

The Tribune reported that Ray has backed anti-smoking policies before -- most recently of which was an increase in the cigarette tax. He believes that such measures will push people to quit smoking.

But the American Lung Association, which opposes the measure, is concerned that it “will only make it harder for people to get the help they need,” said Jennifer Singletary of the ALA to the Tribune. The ALA instead favors prescriptions that have shown to help people quit smoking such as bupropion, the patch, gum and nasal sprays -- all of which Utah's Medicaid program covers.

The bill is still being drafted, but if enacted, it would be the first law of its kind, according to Dave Lemmon, director of communication for the health advocacy organization FamiliesUSA.

This is not the first time Utah has been the first state to try out unique Medicaid reforms. Last March, Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill into law that mandates the creation of a pilot program to give health care to 100 unemployed Medicaid recipients in exchange for community service. Supporters said the pilot would curb government spending.

In order to run the community service pilot, the state needs federal approval, which it's awaiting after submitting a waiver request to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, according to Rep. Ronda Menlove, the law's sponsor.

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