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State Health Plan to employees: We can discriminate

Packets from the State Health Plan are hitting mailboxes this week explaining legislative changes that increase cost sharing for state employees and impose new sanctions for smokers and overweight workers.

Included is also an amazing “Notice to Plan Members” that I’m sure will get everyone excited about working for the state.

First the notice explains the federal law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (or HIPAA), which prohibits group health plans from engaging in discrimination. But, no worries, the State Health Plan says:

In order to implement its comprehensive wellness initiative, the State of North Carolina has elected to exempt the State Health Plan from the HIPAA rules prohibiting discrimination against individual participants and beneficiaries based on health status related factors, including health status, medical condition(physical and mental illnesses), claims experience, receipt of health care, insurability, and disability.

There is also a state law, the disclosure explains, that prohibits “discrimination against individuals based on lawful use of lawful products during nonworking hours.” I’m certain that cigarettes are still legal. So shifting employees into costlier plans because of smoking seems to violate this provision.

But the State Health Plan is exempted from that as well. Also, because these draconian measures will likely cause some people to lose their insurance, the State Health Plan will be kind enough to provide you with a certification of creditable coverage.

The notice helpfully explains:

The certificate provides evidence that you were covered under this Plan, because if you can establish your prior coverage, you may be entitled to certain rights to reduce or eliminate a preexisting condition exclusion if you join another employer’s health plan, or if you wish to purchase an individual insurance policy.

Translation: you won’t be able to afford our coverage anymore, but we’ll give you a certificate that will make being uninsured a bit easier.

I know there are people still out there saying that this entire scheme is a good idea because smokers are hurting the entire health plan. But I think those people are not considering all of the collateral damage — the random mouth swabs for all state employees, the administrative shifting between plans for all state employees, exempting the State Health Plan from HIPAA and state statutes.

There is simply no good argument for these policies. And no good excuse for treating state employees like recalcitrant children.

4 Comments

  1. Get Normlized

    September 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    now tobacco users are gonna get a taste of what us cannabis consumers have had to deal with since the beginning of prohibition

  2. JBarlow

    October 1, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I would personally be happy to go to a gym to work out to address my overweight status if someone will come to my home and take care of my severely disabled husband while I take care of myself. I must pay for any hired care out of pocket.

    I am considered obese, but am healthy. Why would I be treated differently from someone who drinks too much alcohol, or has high blood pressure, or diabetes-especially if I have a genetic predisposition to being overweight? Discrimination is not excusable!

  3. IBXer

    October 2, 2009 at 10:54 am

    If the healthcare legislation in Congress is passed, this will be done to all Americans, not just government employees.

    Government healthcare is not about a “helping hand”. It is about controlling people. Once all of our healthcare costs are paid for by the government, there is literally no limit to what the government can do to control our behavior in order to keep costs low for “the public good”.

    This debate is not about health or care. It is about power and control.

  4. Adam Linker

    October 2, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    What do you mean “if it passes”? It’s dead, remember?