Health insurance surcharges mean you’ll pay for bad habits

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Starting in 2008, Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, began applying a monthly surcharge of $100 to the family health insurance premiums of workers who use tobacco or whose insured dependents do. Employees who kick the habit through the company’s smoking cessation program lose the surcharge and get back any past surcharges they’ve paid.

Clarian Health, the Indianapolis-based hospital chain, charges employees who smoke $5 per paycheck.

Bank of Geneva raised employee deductibles from $500 to $2,500 three years ago. Employees can cut the deductible down to size by meeting health benchmarks for cholesterol, body mass index, blood pressure and tobacco use. Each passed test earns a $500 credit toward the employee’s deductible.

Federal law requires employer-sponsored plans to charge employees the same premiums, regardless of health. But recent legislation has allowed exceptions for wellness programs. The EEOC is looking into potential conflicts with the ADA, but meanwhile, some employers are trying a “tough love” approach to control health care costs.

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