New study shows Hoosiers taxpayers footing $540M bill for Medicaid patients who smoke

Indiana taxpayers are footing a hefty bill when it comes to Medicaid costs for Hoosiers who smoke cigarettes. A new study from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation shows the $540 million price tag all of us are paying if you smoke or not.

"When you're a smoker you end up having more health problems that causes you to go to the hospital or see your doctor more. Whether it's asthma or cardiovascular disease or lung cancer so these things just cost a lot of money when you have these illnesses," said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.

A recent study focused on Hoosiers on Medicaid between the ages of 18 and 64.

"This is not intended to be a gotcha for smokers this is intended to say this is a serious problem not only in terms of the number of people who die every year because of tobacco use but there's also a really big economic impact on or state," Fiddian-Green said.

That's why some lawmakers want to increase the cigarette tax--not only to increase revenue, but to discourage people from smoking. They believe that will result in decreasing health care costs.

"We know we can reduce those cost if we help them quit. And one way we can do that is increasing the cigarette tax," said Monique French with Tobacco Free Indiana.

The group rallied at the Statehouse Wednesday morning in a final push to get the cigarette tax in the budget.

"It's been 10 years since we've increased the cigarette tax and we know that this is one of the most beneficial things we can do to save the lives of Hoosiers and prevent kids from starting to smoke," French said.

"Everyone's talking about the opioid epidemic, which is horrible and tragic, but the number of people who die from tobacco is actually about 10 times more so there's really a lot we need to do to address all addictions but especially tobacco in Indiana," Fiddian-Green said.

The Fairbanks Foundation hopes these findings will encourage state leaders and employers to try harder to connect smokers with services to help them quit. However, the cigarette tax is stalled in the Senate and doesn’t seem likely to move forward.