OHIO - Employees of health care insurance company will pay a surcharge of $525 for tobacco use health benefits..

December 7, 2009 - DAYTON — Starting in 2010, Premier Health Partners will assess an annual $520 surcharge on health care benefits for employees who admit to smoking or chewing tobacco, lighting up cigars, or living in a household where others smoke.

It’s unclear how many of Premier’s more than 10,000 benefit-eligible employees will be subject to the tobacco-use surcharge. The Ohio Department of Health said 20 percent of Ohio adults smoked in 2008.

Premier will rely on employees who use tobacco or are subject to secondhand smoke to “self-identify,” said Bill Linesch, Premier’s vice president of human resources.
Those employees who don’t sign up for Premier’s tobacco-use policy but who are reported to use tobacco will be asked about their tobacco usage, but no formal reporting mechanism is in place, Linesch said. “We’re just asking people to be honest about it.”

Smoking is not permitted on the campuses of Premier hospitals, including Miami Valley and Good Samaritan hospitals and Atrium and Upper Valley medical centers. Linesch said the policy reflects Premier’s commitment to wellness and an effort to clamp down on health care expenses.

He said many of the priciest health care claims stem from tobacco-related illnesses.

While some employees would prefer that Premier butt out, others feel the surcharge for tobacco use is overdue, Linesch said.

The Cleveland Clinic stopped hiring smokers altogether on Sept. 1, 2007, and has rescinded 200 job offers due to the policy, a spokeswoman said. The hospital uses a urine test, which does not detect secondhand smoke.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-7457 or bsutherly@DaytonDailyNews.com.

Reference: Premier workers who smoke face $500+ health care surcharge by Ben Sutherly, Staff Writer, Dayton Daily News, 11/17. 2009.