Saturday, October 10, 2009

Letter: Weight, smoking tests for state workers

State workers who say they are not obese or do not smoke "may be randomly selected to participate in a tobacco use/weight verification test at their worksite," according to a letter mailed to employees last week.

For those tested, height and weight measurements will be collected in addition to a tobacco-use screening. Exempted are employees participating in programs aimed at quitting smoking or weight loss, or those with medical conditions.

Click here to read the letter.

The Observer's Mark Johnson detailed the changes to the state health plan last week:

"North Carolina is poised to become only the second state to penalize state employees by placing them in a more expensive health insurance plan if they're obese.

Smokers will feel the drag of higher costs, too, as North Carolina and South Carolina state employees who use tobacco are slated to pay more for health insurance next year.

N.C. officials, coping with a steady uptick in health care costs for state employees each year, are aiming to improve state workers' health, which saves money in medical expenses.

"Tobacco use and poor nutrition and inactivity are the leading causes of preventable deaths in our state," said Anne Rogers, director of integrated health management with the N.C. State Employees Health Plan. "We need a healthy workforce in this state. We're trying to encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles."

State workers who don't cut out the Marlboros and Big Macs will end up paying more for health insurance. Tobacco users get placed in a more expensive insurance plan starting in July and, for those who qualify as obese, in July 2011.

Some state employees, though, are criticizing the planned changes. The State Employees Association of North Carolina opposes the tobacco and obesity differentials as invasive steps that could have been avoided if the legislature had fixed the plan.

"It's my understanding they're talking about testing (for tobacco use) in the workplace which, to me, would create a hostile environment," said Kim Martin, a sergeant at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury. "And it's an invasion of privacy. This is America, the land of the free. I don't think (body mass index is) a very good measure. I know some folks who would have a high body mass index because they're muscular."

The health plan covers more than 600,000 state employees, retirees and teachers at a total cost last year of $2.6 billion. Last spring, the legislature bailed out the plan with an infusion of $250 million to pay the bills after rising costs and inaccurate projections left little money for claims. Over the next two years, the state general fund will pump about $408 million into the health plan.

While officials have not yet estimated any potential savings from the obesity requirement, the higher costs for smokers could save $13 million in the 2010-2011 budget year, Rogers said, emphasizing that the plan's priority is to improve health and save money in the process.

- Doug Miller

11 comments:

Mary said...

Good idea.

If employees refuse to be tested they can buy their own insurance or get another job.

Algernon said...

"State workers who don't cut out the Marlboros and Big Macs will end up paying more for health insurance. Tobacco users get placed in a more expensive insurance plan starting in July and, for those who qualify as obese, in July 2011."

As it should be.

Why should I pay for anyone else's inability to control themselves, and the results there of.

obama has not yet turned our country into a full blown socialist/marxist experiment.

tigerndawoodz said...

this is funny. You don't mind paying for illegals and people that refuse to get a job? It's definately coming in the health care bill.

Anonymous said...

Unreal, unfair - unAMERICAN and like one poster stated - paying for illegals healthcare who often get better care than those who contribute to their insurance plans. They need to be neutered or sterilized to stop overpopulation at our cost. We don't need to provide them with a free ticket. What about preventative care - of course the states won't offer that as a means to help those who want it. If this is what the states are going to do then they should be testing for alchol use as well - far more dangerous and we all know the higher-ups love those liquid lunch outings. Working while under the influence should be grounds for dismissal!

Anonymous said...

BRAVO Anonymous. I am a smoker and they say we cost the state more in health insurance. I beg to differ on that point. There are 3 of us that smoke in our area at work and most of the people that are out sick are the non-smokers. I haven't missed a day of work due to illness in almost 2 years. Yes, it's a bad and nasty habit, but a very addictive habit, one I am trying to battle, not because of the state health plan, but for me. I eat fairly healthy, but according to the chart the State is going to use, I either have to grow 3 inches or lose almost 30 pounds just to fall into the 'normal' category, but all other weight charts indicate that I'm not overweight or obese.
They haven't even looked at alcoholism. Just think of the lives that have been taken too soon due to a drunk driver, yet they aren't charged more for health insurance and alot of them don't even have a license so you can be sure they don't have automobile insurance. I know alot of higher ups here that love their liquid lunches too. This new plan is just another way for Perdue to 'control' the State.

Anonymous said...

It isn't that a smoker is sicker right now, it's that a smoker is going to cost much more in the long run for healthcare.

take responsibility for your actions and stop crying about socalism

Treatment Shop said...

Thank you so much for sharing this blog. I enjoyed reading some of your posts

Treatment Shop said...

Great topic! This is very helpful not only to me but also to everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I am a state employee and I am overweight. I know that it's my fault if I am "obese" and I have no problem with paying something for my insurance - BUT - if I am paying for it I should have the same coverage as those who don't have to pay. What I have read is that I will only be able to get reduced benefits....THAT'S NOT RIGHT!!

Anonymous said...

firs of all. i do understand what the overall change is for. But, if smokers smoked before and the overweight were overweitght before they were hired, then why should this be inforced to them? We as state workers had physicals completed before we were hired so apparently we were in good health or atleast past the physical. the insurance hike should only effect those persons with a significant change.

Anonymous said...

the BMI index is unreal. the change would affect 90% of the state workers.its funny how the state keeps increasing taxes and health care yet we are one of the lowest paid careers and can barely make ends meet but the people making the changes sit on six figure salaries and make it harder for us. everyone has not been blessed to be a size 6 and weighing in at 120 pounds.