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State Health Plan Quits QuitlineNC, Switches To CVS Caremark's MinuteClinic

A cigarette in an ashtray.
Tomasz Sienicki

The State Health Plan will change vendors for its smoking cessation program.

The plan, which provides health insurance coverage to 727,000 North Carolina public sector teachers, current and former lawmakers, and retirees and their dependents, will switch from QuitlineNC to CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic.

The former contract cost the plan $1.3 million per year, and State Treasurer Dale Folwell said the new contract will cost $862,000, a savings of $479,000.

With CVS locations across the state, Folwell said the new contract will make it easier for smokers to kick the habit. It will also help the state track those on a smoking cessation track.

"We would really like to connect the people that we're giving the premium credit to with making sure that they're actually adhering to what it is that we are putting our money behind," he said.

State Health plan members can reduce their subscriber-only premium by $60 a month if they attest that they are not tobacco users. Or, if they do smoke, they can see the same reduction if they are willing to participate in a tobacco cessation counseling session at a CVS MinuteClinic.  

Folwell said the move is part of an overall plan to spend money in the right places.

"(We wanted to know) what value are we getting for the money we were spending and decided there was a better, cleaner, more efficient way to go for not only the plan participants, but also for the taxpayers like them who are paying for it," he said.

According to the Truth Initiative, smoking is more prevalent in North Carolina than the national average.
Credit The Truth Initiative
According to the Truth Initiative, smoking is more prevalent in North Carolina than the national average.

In 2014, CVS Health announced it would stop selling tobacco products, becoming the first national retail pharmacy to do so. Folwell said he remembered the move, but that did not play in to his decision to move the health plan's smoking cessation program to CVS.

A study publishedin the American Journal for Public Health found the move reduced smoking. "After CVS’s tobacco removal, household- and population-level cigarette purchasing declined significantly," according to the study's findings. "Private retailers can play a meaningful role in restricting access to tobacco. This highlights one approach to reducing tobacco use and improving public health."

Jason deBruyn is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Digital News, a position he took in 2024. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016 as a reporter.
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