State health plan subscribers get incentive to quit tobacco

The cost of lighting up will go up for a number of state employees starting next year. Effective January 1, 2010, subscribers of South Carolina’s State Employees Health Plan will pay a $25-per-month surcharge if they are tobacco users.
More thanĀ 427-thousand public employees, retirees and their families are currently on the plan. Budget and Control Board spokesman Michael Sponhour says the Board’s Employee Insurance Program has launched a statewide campaign to alert subscribers who are tobacco free to fill out a form in order to ensure that they don’t have to pay the surcharge. Sponhour says the Budget and Control Board thinks that adding the surcharge is a prudent action to take.
“Their idea basically was that we know tobacco use leads to a lot of additional health costs for the plan and they wanted to put in some incentive primarily to get people to stop using tobacco so that they’ll live healthier lives. Also the surcharge will work to recover a small portion of the total costs that we think come from tobacco usage.”
Sponhour says since the surcharge does not take effect for eight months. tobacco users on the plan have plenty of time to quit their tobacco use in order to have the surcharge waived.
Sponhour says the program has a plan in place for members of the plan who want to kick the tobacco habit. “We have for a number of years had a free smoking cessation program in place for all of our members. Basically anyone who is a member of the State Health Plan can call and get free counseling, treatment and nicotine replacement products. We’ve been doing that for a while now.”
Sponhour says persons on the plan who use tobacco do not have to participate in the program sponsored tobacco cessation program in order to have the surcharge waived, however by whatever method they used to kick the habit they must have done so over a specific time period and fill out a form saying they have quit their tobacco use.
“Once you’ve hit the six month mark you can sign up and have the $25 dollars a month removed. So, if somebody quit smoking as their New Year’s resolution, July first they can fill out the form with us next year and the $25 dollars a month would be dropped.”