The Medi-Cal Incentives to Quit Smoking Project: Impact of Statewide Outreach Through Health Channels

Elisa K. Tong, Susan L. Stewart, Dean Schillinger, Maya Vijayaraghavan, Melanie S. Dove, Anna E. Epperson, Cynthia Vela, Susan Kratochvil, Christopher M. Anderson, Carrie A. Kirby, Shu Hong Zhu, Jessica Safier, Gordon Sloss, Neal D. Kohatsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: Little is known about how incentives may encourage low income smokers to call for quitline services. This study evaluates the impact of outreach through health channels on California Medicaid (Medi-Cal) quitline caller characteristics, trends, and reach. Study design: Longitudinal study. Setting/participants: Medi-Cal quitline callers. Intervention: Statewide outreach was conducted with health providers, Medi-Cal plans (all-household mailings with tracking codes), and public health organizations (March 2012–July 2015). For incentives, Medi-Cal callers could ask for a $20 gift card; in September 2013, callers were offered free nicotine patches. Main outcome measures: Caller characteristics were compared with chi-square analyses, joinpoint analysis of call trends was performed accounting for Medi-Cal population growth, referral source among Medi-Cal and non–Medi-Cal callers was documented, and the annual percentage of the population reached who called the Helpline was calculated. Analyses were conducted 2016–2018. Results: Total Medi-Cal callers were 92,900, a 70% increase from prior annual averages: 12.4% asked for the financial incentive, 17.3% reported the mailing code, and 73.3% received nicotine patches while offered. Among the two thirds of callers who completed counseling, 15.5% asked for the financial incentive, and 13.6% reported the mailing code. A joinpoint analysis showed call trends increased 23% above expected for the Medi-Cal population growth after mailings to providers and members began, and decreased after outreach ended. Annual reach increased from 2.3% (95% CI=2.1, 2.6) in 2011 to peak at 4.5% (95% CI=3.6, 5.3) in 2014. Among subgroups with higher reach rates, some also had higher rates of asking for the financial incentive (African Americans, American Indian), reporting the tracking code (whites), or both (aged 45–64 years). Medi-Cal callers were more likely than non–Medi-Cal callers to report providers (32.3% vs 23.8%) and plans (19.7% vs 1.4%) as their referral source, and less likely to cite media (20.2% vs 44.4%, p<0.001). Conclusions: Statewide outreach through health channels incentivizing Medi-Cal members increased the utilization and reach of quitline services. Supplement information: This article is part of a supplement entitled Advancing Smoking Cessation in California's Medicaid Population, which is sponsored by the California Department of Public Health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S159-S169
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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