Friday, November 21, 2014

Colorado Insurance Alert Urges Smokers to Quit

DENVER — Colorado insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar is urging people to take advantage of smoking-cessation programs at no cost through plans under the country's new health-care law.

Salazar issued a consumer alert Thursday to raise public awareness about help available to stop smoking. She notes that plans compliant with the Affordable Care Act offer free counseling and medications, like patches or gums.

"It's one thing to tell people that they ought to stop smoking and that there's benefits and those kind of things. But I think when we emphasize that this is an alert, we want people to pay attention and to realize that we take this very seriously," Salazar said. It's the first alert she has issued since becoming commissioner in August 2013.

Also Thursday, one of Colorado's largest hospital groups, Centura Health, announced it would no longer hire tobacco users after Jan. 1. The policy won't apply to current workers, but job applicants will be tested for tobacco as part of their employment screening. Centura outlawed smoking and tobacco use at its premises in 2012.

Salazar announced her alert to mark the annual "Great American Smokeout," an American Cancer Society event that urges smokers to make a plan to stop.A consumer alert means the state's division of insurance will publicize the information online and ask health-insurance companies to post the details on their websites. Salazar said the insurance benefits to help smokers quit has been available since 2012 under the new health law, but she's trying to get more people to know about it.

"I think we have to keep repeating that message because someone may not have been ready to stop smoking when it first came out," she said. "And maybe if they hear it again and they realize that there is not out-of-pocket expense if they want to try to stop smoking, that again, those people who are ready now to quit will pay attention and go find help."

Associated PressNovember 20, 2014

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