BCBS decides to reimburse for nicotine patches

Sanne Magnan, MD, associate medical director for Minnesota's Blue Cross' HMO affiliate Blue Plus, announced the plan would start covering nicotine patches and nicotine gum when purchased with a doctor's prescription. "We want to reduce the financial barriers and provide encouragement for our members who are ready to quit smoking," says Magnan. The plan also now covers bupropion SR, which is sold under the brand name Zyban.

The St. Paul-based Blues will also continue to cover physician counseling as part of a routine office visit, and is in the process of negotiating discounted rates on tobacco cessation counseling for members. A one- or two-week supply of patches or gum can cost $30 to $55 when purchased over the counter. Blue Cross' cessation benefit will allow members to purchase that same supply for their standard drug copay or deductible. However, the plan requires a prescription for the patch and gum to ensure that the member's physician is involved in the smoking cessation program.