Big Brother

Today at a legislative hearing State Health Plan officials said they want to use something called a “smokalyzer” to randomly test state workers for traces of nicotine. If the employee or a dependent is found to smoke the State Health Plan will force them into a bottom tier insurance plan that requires high deductibles and thousands more in cost sharing. Actuaries project no savings from this plan.

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12 Comments

  1. Serena

    March 12, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Won’t we spend as much money policing people as we would with the additional health care cost we are already incurring? This sounds like a LOT of red tape.

  2. Rob Schofield

    March 12, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Not to mention an absurd and obscene invasion of privacy (and maybe the Constitution).

  3. AdamL

    March 12, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    The ACLU has this interesting briefing on “lifestyle discrimination” that discusses how employers are attacking the privacy rights of employees by controlling what they do outside the workplace.

    http://www.aclu.org/workplacerights/gen/13384res19981231.html

  4. AdamL

    March 12, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I should add that if you listen to the video Jack Walker says that the State Health Plan “projects” that it will recoup the cost of the program over the first three years. There are no projections for savings. And this is the same group that “projected” an 8 percent savings by switching to the Blue Cross PPO — the actual savings were less than half of the projection.

    Color me a tad skeptical of the SHP’s projecting prowess.

  5. Mike

    March 13, 2009 at 8:04 am

    As a state employee I am for smokers to pay high a higher premium because tobacco related diseases drive up the cost of health care for everyone (i.e. several kinds of cancers and respiratory diseases that are chronic). Smokers only account for about 25% of the adult population but account for roughly 50% of health care costs. Using tobacco products is a choice. Do life insurance companies charge higher premiums? If so, why?

    I would, however, prefer if an employee agrees to stop smoking for lower premiums, that they sign an affidavit instead of using the smokealyzer.

    People need to remember that health insurance from an employer is a bonus and not a right and I am in favor of some changes if it will keep if viable.

  6. Adam Linker

    March 13, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Mike, while it might seem like a good idea to push smokers out of the State Health Plan — which is what will likely happen to some people forced into the 70/30 plan — the idea and execution need much more thought. The program will cost the state money that we are not sure we will recoup, and it’s riding through the General Assembly on the coattails of a bill providing the SHP with an emergency cash infusion.

    At this point SHP officials can’t tell us how this new smoking and obesity plan will be administered or enforced, and they can’t tell us if it will save the state money.

  7. Adam Searing

    March 13, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I’d say the better way to go would be a carrot – provide extensive stop-smoking programs and small rewards to state employees who quit smoking, pay for this out of any anticipated savings, and don’t count on saving any money overall – just lives and and the health of people who work hard every day.

    If we prove the actuaries wrong and save substantial money then all the better. But at least we aren’t going to people’s houses to “smokealyze” them.

  8. Louis

    March 13, 2009 at 11:36 am

    has this type of proposal been used by any other health plans?

  9. Tobacco Is A Vegatable

    March 13, 2009 at 11:46 am

    it is ridiclous to penalize state employee’s who smoke cigarettes for their nicotine addicition. The attention should turn to penalizing the cigarette companies. Click on my name for details on the decades long cover-up about Polonium-210

  10. Jack

    March 13, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I wander what smoke filled room this idea came out of?

    Fast-Foodalyzer
    Grumby-Man or Womanalyzer
    Bad Attitudalyzer
    Revengalyzer
    Donutalyzer
    Fed-Upalyzer
    Can’t-Stand-Youalyzer
    Liberalalyzer
    Conservativalyzer
    Hate-My-Jobalyzer

  11. Eugene Barufkin

    March 14, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    And what about the Medco gouging problem?
    I met with Charles Clifford, RPh of Medicine Park Pharmacy in Sanford, 919-776-9715, I learned this -

    The issue -
    Under the NC SHP contracts NC is being gouged by Medco when people purchase Rx’s using this plan.

    Mr Clifford had two identical items he purchased from Medco and another source.
    – Medco invoices the NC SHP up to 50% more than his purchases from another source.
    – Medco relabels the items with their own item identification number.
    – A pharmacy must use Medco as stipulated by the NC SHP program.
    – Confirmed by Mike James @ Persons St pharmacy, he added this – I have much more info than that. And years of history about SHP excessive costs, back into the early 90′s.

    How many unestimated millions of dollars are being wasted by this unnecessary secret State of North Carolina contractual arrangement.

  12. [...] on getting the State Health Plan needed cash and stop loading the bill with cost sharing hikes and intrusive programs that subject state workers to random nicotine [...]