HEALTH

Study: Health insurance plans not providing smoking cessation therapy pursuant to Affordable Care Act

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Many health insurance plans are failing to provide coverage mandated by the healthcare reform law for treatments to help smokers and other tobacco users quit, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reported Monday, citing a study of insurance contracts by Georgetown University researchers that the group commissioned. 

"The [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act recognized that coverage for preventive care, including helping people quit tobacco, is a critical part of improving health and reducing healthcare costs in our country," stated Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Covering effective tobacco cessation treatments is a smart way for insurers to avoid the cost of future illness, and it is the law."

The ACA requires all new private health insurance plans to cover preventive health services recommended with an A or B grade by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force with no cost-sharing, such as co-pays. These recommendations include tobacco cessation treatments, which received an A grade. The USPSTF recommends that clinicians ask adults about tobacco use and provide cessation interventions for tobacco users. It found that more or longer counseling sessions improve quit rates, and combining counseling with medication is more effective for treating tobacco dependence than either therapy used alone.

To determine how the cessation coverage requirement is being implemented, insurance experts at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute analyzed 39 health insurance plans sold in six states, including individual, small group, federal employee and state employee plans. The researchers found that many policies are rife with confusing and conflicting language that could leave consumers uncertain if tobacco cessation treatments are covered and discourage them from seeking these treatments. It also found that many policies included gaps in coverage for cessation counseling and medication and cost-sharing requirements that appear to conflict with the law.

For example, while 36 contracts indicated that they covered tobacco cessation or are providing coverage consistent with the USPSTF recommendations, 26 of these contracts also included language entirely or partially excluding tobacco cessation from coverage.

Only 4-of-39 plans stated they covered individual, group and phone counseling and both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Many policies specifically excluded certain types of counseling and provided no coverage of prescription and OTC medications for tobacco cessation.

And in apparent conflict with the law, some policies included cost-sharing requirements. Seven-of-36 contracts that clearly covered counseling required cost-sharing for counseling by in-network providers, and 6-of-24 contracts that covered prescription drugs required cost-sharing.

The study was commissioned by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids with funding from Pfizer.

For the complete study, click here

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Former Eagle great Ron Jaworski signs on as Stopain spokesman

BY Michael Johnsen

HAZELTON, Pa. — Troy Healthcare on Monday announced that Ron Jaworski, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and current “ESPN Football” analyst, has signed on to become a national spokesman for its Stopain line of topical analgesics.

“Ron is one of the most popular and respected athletes in Philadelphia sports history,” stated Thomas Cicini, president and CEO of Troy Healthcare. “His unquestioned loyalty, 10-year career with the Eagles and longstanding dedication to giving back to the community makes him the perfect fit for Stopain, and we’re thrilled that he joined the Stopain team as a [spokesman] on a national level.”

“I am very captivated by the Stopain team; their products are geared toward any age group or athlete,” Jaworski said. “I’ve tried many products to help with my arthritis pain as a result [of] years of playing football, but most only subside the pain. Stopain actually stops the pain; it’s terrific. Believe me, they are the ‘real deal.’"

 

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NBTY acquires Balance Bar from private equity firm

BY Michael Johnsen

GREENWICH, Conn. — Brynwood Partners VI on Monday announced that it has sold its Balance Bar Company, which manufactures nutrition and energy bars, to NBTY. 

The value of the deal was not disclosed, though the Wall Street Journal reported that NBTY agreed to pay about $78 million for Balance Bar, citing people familiar with the transaction. According to that report, Balance Bars enjoy significant distribution across supermarkets, giving NBTY an opportunity to expand distribution through the convenience store and drug store channels. 

Balance Bar was acquired by Brynwood in 2009 from Kraft Foods. The company, which is headquartered in Valhalla, N.Y., posted $26.6 million in sales of Balance bars across food, drug and mass (minus Walmart) for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 9, according to SymphonyIRI Group data. Sales for the period were up 4.7%, and the brand ranked No. 11 in SymphonyIRI’s nutritional/instrinsic health value bars. The category leader is General Mills Fiber One followed by Clif and Zone Perfect. 

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