Tobacco Surcharge - Jan. 1, 2010

At the State Insurance Committee meeting on March 31, a plan was approved that calls for the implementation of a $50 per-month tobacco surcharge for those members who use any type of tobacco.  This plan will go into effect January 1, 2010.  Every Health Plan member will need to submit a completed Tobacco Surcharge Form during the Annual Transfer Period in October, regardless if you are a tobacco user or not.  Those who indicate they or their covered spouse use tobacco will pay the $50 per-month surcharge per household. Members who do not use tobacco will not have to pay the surcharge. Members who do not return their completed Tobacco Surcharge Form will also pay the $50 per month surcharge, even if they or their spouses do not smoke.  The state will take a graduated approach to assessing fines from employees who provide false information on their Tobacco Surcharge Form.

Employees and covered spouses who currently use tobacco and wish to avoid the surcharge entirely will have access to a variety of free and low cost quit supports, which can help them be tobacco free by July 1, 2009.  Members who choose to quit by this date will not be subject to the surcharge in 2010.

Members who continue to use tobacco products after July 1, 2009, will be subject to the surcharge in 2010, but will continue to have full access to all cessation benefits.

Plan members already have full access the Tennessee Department of Health Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  This free hotline provides cessation counseling and resource information which can help kick the habit.  ETSU is also offering assistance(see attached).

Beginning May 1, several additional resources will be made available to plan members who wish to quit using tobacco.  The insurance committee voted to implement the following benefits as part of perhaps the most generous coverage of tobacco cessation options in the country:

$5 co-pays for patches, gum and lozenges ($10 co-pay for 90-day supply)

$5 co-pays for prescriptions to help members quit, such as Chantix and Bupropion ($10 co-pay for 90-day supply)

These co-pays and benefits will be available for all members, regardless of their insurance carrier or plan.  Because quitting any form of tobacco should be overseen by a physician to ensure safety and effectiveness, members will need to get a prescription from their doctor for all quit aids, including those which are available over the counter.  This prescription, coupled with the insurance card, will ensure members pay only the $5 or $10 co-pay.  A series of free quit support seminars will also begin the first week of May at locations across the state.  These voluntary sessions will provide tips for successfully giving up tobacco and will provide a chance for members to learn more about safely quitting and how to get the most from the state’s quit support program.  A complete schedule of these seminars is available here.

For those members who successfully quit using tobacco after the surcharge is implemented, a Quitter’s Refund will be available.  Members who pay at least six months of the surcharge will be eligible to receive a $300 refund for remaining tobacco-free for six months and an additional $300 for remaining tobacco-free for an additional six months (one year total).

This initiative is the first of several steps to encourage positive habits among plan members as they relate to tobacco use, wellness habits and overall health.  The Insurance Committees will be considering other programs for Plan Years 2011 and beyond.  A healthier membership in the State Group Insurance Program can help keep plan costs affordable for all members.