News Release

January 15, 2014

OHCA Contacts: Jo Kilgore - (405) 522-7474, Jennie Melendez - (405) 522-7404

OHCA Sees Drop In Smoking Rates Among SoonerCare Members

There is promising news in the fight for a healthier Oklahoma.  SoonerCare (Oklahoma Medicaid), which is administered by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), has seen a 5 percentage point decrease in smoking prevalence among its members.

The 2013 Oklahoma Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Survey reports smoking rates dropped from 48 percent in FY-2008 to 43 percent in FY-2013. Additionally, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline has seen an 82 percent increase in the number of SoonerCare callers from 2009 to 2012, nearly doubling in the last year alone.

These figures are important because:

  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and poor health outcomes in the U.S. 
  • Smoking-related health care expenditures are estimated at $96 billion per year.
  • According to “Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update,” if 100 percent of all smokers covered by state Medicaid programs quit, the estimated annual savings to Medicaid would be $9.7 billion after five years.

Historically, Oklahoma’s adult smoking percentage rate has ranked among the highest in the nation (the Oklahoma tobacco use rate is 23.3 percent; the national average is 19.6 percent). 

In an effort to turn the tide, OHCA’s SoonerQuit benefits offer help with tobacco cessation counseling and products.  The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, a partnership between the OHCA, Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), Oklahoma State Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Employees Group Insurance Division (EGID), provides additional support services for SoonerCare members. Data shows that SoonerCare members are taking advantage of these services in their quest for healthier living.

“Quitting smoking can be a challenge, so it’s important that SoonerCare members know there is help available,” said Shelly Patterson, OHCA director of Health Promotion & Community Relations. “Talking with their doctor or calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW is a good first step to get tools and resources to make it easier.”

“It’s encouraging to see an increase in SoonerCare members using the helpline services,” TSET Executive Director Tracey Strader said.

“In other states with similar partnerships with their Medicaid agencies, savings on health care costs to the state have been significant. Quitting smoking has immediate benefits and reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. For every $1 spent on cessation, there is a $3.12 savings by reducing cardiovascular-related hospital admissions.”

Laura Beebe, Ph.D., of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has evaluated the effectiveness of the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline since its launch in 2003. 

“The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is among the top performing quit lines in the nation, providing evidence-based treatment to more than 35,000 tobacco users in FY2012 alone,” Beebe said.

“SoonerCare members using the helpline report high levels of satisfaction with the services they receive, and approximately 30 percent of participants report quitting tobacco at the 7-month follow-up survey.  This quit rate far exceeds the quit rate for ‘cold turkey’ – less than 5 percent.”

The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is a free service for all Oklahomans seeking to quit their tobacco use.  The helpline can be accessed by phone at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or online at