Seniors can receive Medicare counseling to stop smoking

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Medicare will now help seniors kick the habit.

Government officials said this week that older Americans who want to quit smoking can receive counseling through Medicare – but only if they suffer from certain diseases or health problems. Also, the new coverage will not pay for drugs, patches or other products advertised to help people stop smoking.

Seniors must suffer from heart or lung disease, weak bones, cataracts or other diseases caused or worsened by tobacco use to receive counseling. Medicare would also cover patients taking insulin or other medicines that can be less effective with smoking.

It is unknown how many Medicare beneficiaries would qualify. About 9% of Americans age 65 and older smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Planned Medicare coverage for smokers was first disclosed in December.