Employer charging smokers.. Thoughts?

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Replies

  • magj0y
    magj0y Posts: 1,911 Member
    The insurance company charges those who smoke a higher premium. Your boss isn't ringing his hands making money of the choice of those who smoke. It's covering the cost of the higher premium. Insurance companies charge it because ultimately they have to pay more out in services to smokers. They also do charge those that are obese when it comes to life insurance. It costs nearly twice as much to take out a policy if you are not physically fit vs are.

    Most people who are in the obese category are declined life insurance...it's hard to get.

    According to the Mayo clinic, smokers cost an average of 1,275 higher than non-smokers.
    Obese people cost an extra $1,850 morbid obesity cost over 5K.
    so...who is more expensive here?
    Obesity is tricker than smoking. Apple shaped people who are slightly more overweight have more health problems that many pear shaped obese people, for example. That is a fact.

    Tricky or not, they still cost more.
  • jeolds
    jeolds Posts: 104 Member
    i only smoke when i drink... so, i dont take breaks to smoke at work. and, i dont know where this money goes, i will learn more later. in my head, why not charge folks that are obese with awful eating habits & that are sedentary.


    Never heard of someone getting fat sitting next to an overweight person.

    Not sure where you work, but nearly every place I've been smoking is not allowed so the second hand smoke argument is a moot point. In many places in California, Wisconsin that I recall you can't even smoke within so many feet of an entryway.
  • mfpcopine
    mfpcopine Posts: 3,093 Member
    Many people would love to have a job that offered insurance.
    Complying with a no-smoking condition is something they'd happily put up with.
  • fbmandy55
    fbmandy55 Posts: 5,262 Member
    I work with a few guys who take 5-10 smoke breaks a day, and I estimate are only physically there for about 6-7hrs of their 8hr shifts.

    We should charge them.

    That's your employer's problem.. I am a a smoker and I don't get a break. I only get a chance if I leave on my lunch. Any other job I've gotten a 15 minute min break in morning and one in afternoon. Those 15 min breaks were available to anyone by state law.
  • danasings
    danasings Posts: 8,218 Member
    Sounds like its the insurance company charging it, not your employer. Most insurance companies do.

    Methinks your employer is passing an insurance company surcharge on to you. It's a blessing that you have health insurance. I'm not judging, I'm just saying that because my husband and I don't.
  • Italianyc84
    Italianyc84 Posts: 192 Member
    I would only agree if people who are overweight are also charged more. Someone who eats fast food three times a day is just as much of a liability as someone who smokes.
  • Homantwin2
    Homantwin2 Posts: 2 Member
    Insurance companies already factor weight into your insurance premiums. If you are on a group plan it is not as obvious, but if you try to get an individual plan you will find that you are not accepted for many policies if you are too over weight.
  • My company has a "surcharge" for smokers and are trying to incorporate over-weight people now. They started this 2 years ago by providing reductions in your health insurance premiums for participating in health questionnaires. Now they are providing more premium reductions for participating in a "wellness screening" (company sponsored/paid health/physical exams). I wouldn't be surprised to see them add a surcharge for being overweight after all of this is said-and-done. I used to fall into that "obese" category but am being proactive and now just fall into the "over-weight" category in anticipation of the "over-weight" surcharge.

    People in my office are up-in-arms saying the company is being too intrusive into their lives. No one is forcing them to work there so if they don’t like it, they can quit. And not so surprisingly, the people complaining are those that are obese. Being obese is a choice just like choosing to drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs, etc… My opinion is if you choose to engage in unhealthy risk factors, then be prepared to pay the price!

    You can't change a person's personality but you can change their behavior and economics is one of the most powerful tools for doing so. Companies charging people more for engaging in unhealthy risk factors (drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs, poor diet, etc...) will likely reduce those risk factors over time.
  • CTCMom2009
    CTCMom2009 Posts: 263 Member
    Some insurance companies do charge for things other than smoking, i.e. BMI is too high, high BP, etc. My company for 2013 is having everyone do a Biometric test, which means they find out what you BP, blood glucose, cholesterol are as well as my height/weight and waist measurement... for this yr, just taking the tests gives us a $25/month discount... I suspect in the future if there are negative changes in those initial #s, my premiums will go up.
  • fbmandy55
    fbmandy55 Posts: 5,262 Member
    i only smoke when i drink... so, i dont take breaks to smoke at work. and, i dont know where this money goes, i will learn more later. in my head, why not charge folks that are obese with awful eating habits & that are sedentary.


    Never heard of someone getting fat sitting next to an overweight person.

    Not sure where you work, but nearly every place I've been smoking is not allowed so the second hand smoke argument is a moot point. In many places in California, Wisconsin that I recall you can't even smoke within so many feet of an entryway.

    And your chances of getting second hand smoke from a random passerby or the occasional bar/restaurant are so low that most researchers don't even acknowledge the risk.

    Plus there is no research that proves a person with lung cancer wouldn't have gotten it regardless, had they not been exposed to second hand smoke. There are people who get lung cancer who have never smoked a day in their lives, didn't live with a smoker either. Just as there are super health-nuts who are in perfect shape and still get random cancer.

    The anti-smoking thing is all about politics and taxes.
  • myfitnessnmhoy
    myfitnessnmhoy Posts: 2,105 Member
    Do people who smoke marijuana, meth or crack have a lesser chance of costing the insurance companies money in long-term health care expenses?

    My company made me sign an affidavit stating that I do not take illegal drugs, and it shows up on my medical questionnaire every year when I re-apply for health insurance. I have no idea what the implications are if I checked "yes", as it does not apply to me, but I have to imagine that if I checked "no" and did a huge joint and went in to the hospital, it wouldn't cost the insurance company a dime - because I'd be off my company's insurance plan for fraud and terminated for cause so fast I'd probably get my pink slip before the hospital admittance paperwork was completed. Certainly my odds of ever being allowed to set foot on company property are worse than betting on a blind man on a bicycle in a NASCAR race.

    Obesity is a greyer area. My company has what we call a "healthy lifestyles" program, and the requirements are that you have to be a non-smoker and participate in a voluntary program every year that includes a blood test and physical every other year, a questionnaire every year, and one conversation with a "health coach" over the phone to review your medical history and work up a plan toward getting healthier if you need to. Participation is completely voluntary and saves about $30 a week on health insurance.

    So, for us, it's not just about "not smoking", but also about at least making yourself aware of any health risks you may have and offering the resources to help you work your way out of those risks.

    And, let's be honest with ourselves, here. There is no really good measurement of health in terms of body composition that's truly practical. Most measurements that are accurate would involve a decent cost per patient just to do the test.

    But there is an easy, cheap measurement of whether someone is incurring additional risks to their health by smoking.

    "Do you smoke? y/n".
  • danasings
    danasings Posts: 8,218 Member
    Just a note about enforcement. They can test your hair, and assuming you have a decent length, it contains a record of the substances you've consumed as its grown. If you want to cheat the system, shave your head.

    By the way, as a 41-year old woman you have been benefiting from lower car insurance rates for years. Meanwhile, males like myself get charged higher, whether we are reckless or not, simply due to probability theory predicting higher risk. This is how insurance works. If you don't like it, maybe you should pay the males of America back for all the cheaper insurance you've received due your predicted lower risk.

    Hmm. Women pay higher auto insurance rates than men in Southern California.
  • runnerjenn0708
    runnerjenn0708 Posts: 400 Member
    HR Director over here ... You can't charge an employee because they smoke - Insurance companies can and they do adjust premiums based on age, health issues, smoking, and many other issues. They are NOT targeting smokers alone. Smoking IS a very bad habit, but so are a lot of other things. Keep your chin up and the cigs out :)
  • amoffatt
    amoffatt Posts: 674 Member
    I work in the dental field and a patient stated that her insurance already charges a larger premium PER smoker she lists and is looking at charging for overweight individuals as well. I believe she stated her insurance was going to go by waist size (dont quote that not sure) but any larger than a certain number (somewhere in the higher 20's) there was additional fees. I would say this is due to the health risks that smokers and overweight people could have more of.

    My son is no where near overweight (under to be exact) but has health issues that the insurances pays monthly for. These are bad habits that can cause people to more and likely develope health issues but not always the case.
  • mfpcopine
    mfpcopine Posts: 3,093 Member
    Just a note about enforcement. They can test your hair, and assuming you have a decent length, it contains a record of the substances you've consumed as its grown. If you want to cheat the system, shave your head.

    By the way, as a 41-year old woman you have been benefiting from lower car insurance rates for years. Meanwhile, males like myself get charged higher, whether we are reckless or not, simply due to probability theory predicting higher risk. This is how insurance works. If you don't like it, maybe you should pay the males of America back for all the cheaper insurance you've received due your predicted lower risk.

    You can pay all the women in American who paid premiums for health insurance that covered Viagra but not birth control pills.

    Cuts both ways, laddie.
  • admanMike
    admanMike Posts: 371 Member
    I look at it this way...it's a discount for people who don't smoke. Would like to see your employer offer cessation classes and support to help their employees quit. In the long run, smokers will add more cost via health claims as well as costs to company with more absences (overall) etc. I'd like to see more incentives/discounts for other healthy lifestyle choices as well.
  • lisamarie2181
    lisamarie2181 Posts: 560 Member
    so, starting in 2013 my employer will charge employees that smoke. i smoke on occassion. i don't know all the details as of yet but what I do know is that all employees will have to sign a waiver upon enrollment for insurance. basically i must certify that I had been a non-tobacco user for the 12 months immediately prior to completing my enrollment. since i can't certify this, i am subject to a $40 monthly premium deducted from my pay. i understand that smoking can lead to lifelong medical expenses. in my city, the largest medical claims are high blood pressure/ hypertension back & join pain. every year i get a medical exam & i get consistently get a clean bill of health. i excercise and watch what i eat. as i understand, one cause of high blood pressure is smoking, but it's also caused by being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity, poor diet etc. so, why target smokers only??

    just wondering thoughts on this? and, yes, i know smoking is bad for me. wah wah.

    As I have seen, alot is getting blamed on the insurance company for raising premiums, but alot of times it is some people within your company that are using the insurance alot, which incures large claims, making the rates go up. If you have people will illnesses (cancer, diabetes, things requiring surgery or maintenance drugs), there use of the insurance is more going to drive up the cost then someone who smokes and has no medical problems.

    They actually do raise the rate more for obesity, but as someone else stated, if they tried to enforce this smoking thing with obesity, it would be a discrimination issue.

    Smoking is rated just along with obesity, if you have employees that have diabetes, cancer, or any other medical condition, regardless if they use the insurance alot or not, you will be rated up. Being a smoker affects the rates less then all these people with medical conditions in place. A big reason rates go up so high for your company could infact be because of how the insurance is being used by people that already have medical problems.

    I do this work on a daily basis, and I can tell you at least here in IL, alot of insurance companies DO NOT cover help with smoking aids to quit or with diet or weight loss aids. Most won't even cover a nutritionist. I have PCOS and am pre disposed to diabetes, and they still wouldn't cover it, I would have to pay. If that is the case, a company has NO RIGHT to charge you more money for something they are not helping you fix. If they offer you programs for free, then yes you should take advantage for your own sake.

    Your employer is the one that doesn't want to pay the extra cost, so that is why they do the wellness evaluations, but to specifically target smokers is not fair, there are ALOT of other things driving rates up, even having people of older age on a plan will raise the rates.

    ETA: to clarify - If that is the case, a company has NO RIGHT to charge you more money for something they are not helping you fix, ESPECIALLY WHEN THIS IS NOT THE MAJOR THING BRING RATES UP. This is discrimination against smokers, just like it would be against someone who is obese. Do they charge the people with medical conditions more money because they use the insurance more then a smoker who has their annual once a year and doesn't use the insurance otherwise? NOPE!!

    Just something to think about :) Not promoting smoking, but just as it is a choice to smoke, it a choice to stay obese and not CHOOSE to get healthy.
  • amoffatt
    amoffatt Posts: 674 Member
    As an HR rep, I know the extreme cost of having smokers on a group plan. I don't blame the insurance companies or the employer for charging a fee for smoking. Smoking is something you can control. Most plans will even give you free resources for stopping.

    Only resources usually. They will not help pay for someone trying to quit, at least mine didnt for my husband, all out of poacket, they just gave us websites.
  • myfitnessnmhoy
    myfitnessnmhoy Posts: 2,105 Member
    Some insurance companies do charge for things other than smoking, i.e. BMI is too high, high BP, etc. My company for 2013 is having everyone do a Biometric test, which means they find out what you BP, blood glucose, cholesterol are as well as my height/weight and waist measurement... for this yr, just taking the tests gives us a $25/month discount... I suspect in the future if there are negative changes in those initial #s, my premiums will go up.

    I doubt it. My company has been doing a similar program (called "Healthy Lifestyles") for quite a few years now, and there's absolutely no indication that they will start adjusting premiums based on health results. The company is self-insured, so I believe they COULD do such a thing, but I sincerely doubt they ever will.

    My company does the blood work/BP/etc every other year, plus we have to review the results with an over-the-phone "health coach" at least once a year, with unlimited access to continue with those coaches if they want to make improvements (and personal trainers on staff to help in the company gyms, all free of charge, by appointment).

    The key is to make people aware of their risks and offer them the tools to mitigate the risks themselves.

    One interesting result is that we had a HUGE push toward diabetes awareness the first year as people did their first blood test (in some cases in decades, in some cases EVER) and discovered that 5% of the employee base were undiagnosed diabetics and 10% had blood sugar control issues. Most folks took steps to get it under control through diet before things got bad, and the net result is a significant projected savings in health care costs over the next few years.
  • kdiamond
    kdiamond Posts: 3,329 Member
    How can they determine that you smoke anyway? I know my BIL smokes but he abstained for 3 days before whatever blood tests they give for his life insurance and it was enough time to not be detected and therefore he was considered a non-smoker.