Harkin introduces stop-smoking legislation for women - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Harkin introduces stop-smoking legislation for women

(Washington, DC-KWWL)

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today introduced legislation aimed at helping women on Medicaid stop smoking during pregnancy. The Smoke-Free Mothers and Babies Act of 2009 amends the Social Security Act to encourage states to provide pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid with access to comprehensive tobacco cessation services. Harkin, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, was joined by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in introducing this legislation.

The bill offers states an enhanced "federal medical assistance percentage" match under Medicaid to cover tobacco cessation programs for poor pregnant women. The cost of these services would be less than $6 per mother.

"We have a responsibility to inform new mothers about the dangers of smoking and its effects on babies and young children," Harkin said. "This legislation will give mothers the help they need to kick the habit. By using our resources effectively, we can improve the health of mothers and their children, and the health of our Medicaid budget."

At least one out of every ten pregnant women in the United States smokes, which accounts for over 400,000 births per year. Studies have found that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke among pregnant women is a major cause of miscarriage, stillbirths, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

"We should be doing more to reduce the dangers to both mothers and their children that come from smoking during pregnancy," Harkin said. "I anticipate strong support for the bill and hope that it will quickly move forward in the 111th Congress."

A 1% decline in smoking prevalence among pregnant women would prevent 1,300 cases of low birth weight among babies annually and save at least $21 million in direct medical costs. For every $1 spent on smoking cessation for pregnant women, an estimated $3 in neonatal intensive care costs could be avoided. Such expenditures have a disproportionate impact on Medicaid, with estimates indicating that pregnant women on Medicaid are more likely to smoke than pregnant women not on Medicaid. Smoking-attributable neonatal healthcare costs through the Medicaid program total almost $228 million- equal to $700 per pregnant smoker.

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