|$25 added to premiums for tobacco use
by Cindy Abole
Nicotine addiction is a physical and emotional dependence that's as powerful as being hooked on heroin and cocaine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 46
million Americans, or 20.6 percent of the U.S. adult population, smoke
cigarettes. From that number, an estimated 443,000 people are expected
to die each year from smoking and tobacco-related illnesses.
The dangers of long-term tobacco use directly affect people’s overall
health and are responsible for heart disease, aneurysms, bronchitis,
emphysema, stroke and other debilitating chronic disease and
conditions. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), employees
who smoke are reported to make six times more visits per year to health
care facilities than employees who are non-smokers.
According to the South Carolina Budget and Control Board’s Employee
Insurance Program (EIP), tobacco-related illnesses cost the state’s
health plans (State Health Plan, BlueChoice Health Plan and CIGNA HMO)
an estimated $75 million per year.
To reduce rising medical care costs among public workers, South
Carolina joined other Southern states like Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky
and West Virginia by imposing a $25 per month surcharge (began Jan. 1)
to employees’ health insurance premiums for those or any covered family
member who smoke or admit to using tobacco products.
Last November, South Carolina state employees were required to complete
a Certification Regarding Tobacco Use form indicating their status.
Employees who wish to avoid this surcharge must be tobacco-free for at
least six months and must recertify their status annually. If an
insured employee or any of their covered dependents use tobacco
products within the six months after the date of certification as
non-tobacco user(s) and do not notify EIP, the insured employee is
subject to penalties which may include payment of an additional $25
surcharge, plus a 10-percent penalty, for each month since last
certification and elimination of out-of-pocket maximum for the current
and subsequent year.
Use of these tobacco-use health insurance premium surcharge policies
have been identified as part of wellness and can be considered as one
way to manage health care costs. And employers like MUSC provide
employees and their families with stop-smoking and cessation programs
through MUSC’s Health 1st wellness program and MUSC employee insurance
companies like CIGNA’s Healthy Roads for Living (800-244-6224), the
State Health Plan Quit for Life program (866-784-8454) and BlueChoice
Health Plan’s Great Expectations (800-327-3183, ext. 25541) offered
through ACS. Health 1st wants to know about any other smoking cessation
programs that are available on campus.
For information, visit http://www.eip.sc.gov/tobacco_use/.
For information about MUSC stop smoking programs, visit http://mcintranet.musc.edu/health1st/smoking.htm.
Stop smoking programs empower, change lives
MUSC employees and their family members have more support than ever to
help them quit tobacco use and become non-smokers. To help employees
and family members take those first steps in breaking the habit, MUSC
offers a variety of tobacco cessation classes and programs.
One program, MUSC Quit Now…For Life! is offered through MUSC Health
1st, the campus’ wellness program, as a free smoking cessation class
featuring a comprehensive approach.
1st’s Annie Lovering Steele, from left, recognizes MUSC Quit Now For
Life’s January class Caroline King, Utilization Management; Debra
Howard, MUHA Purchasing; Marie Nealy, Hospital Communications; Virgie
Bryant-Green, MUHA Purchasing; and non-smoker graduates Beverly Jenkins
and Kathy Burt, and program facilitator, Dr. Robert Mallin.
Classes are small (between five and seven people) and taught in six
group sessions for a three-week period. The program is facilitated by
Robert Mallin, M.D., professor in the Department of Family Medicine and
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science. Mallin, who has taught
this class since 2005 and volunteers his time, has been involved with
this type of work for almost a decade. He is board certified by the
American Board of Family Medicine and American Board of Addiction
“Our program is a plan to help people who want to quit smoking,” said
Mallin. “We follow well-studied approaches that examine both the
psychological and social perspectives of smoking as well as providing
help through education and group support.”
Participants begin with a medical consultation and are evaluated for
their status and the possibility of using smoking cessation
medications. Other classes are devoted to the study of nicotine
addiction and education and discussion. Mallin encourages participants
to take action on “Quit Day,” usually the fourth class. The final class
ends with a graduation for the new non-smokers.
The program worked for Beverly Jenkins, a UMA coder with the Department
of Anesthesia and Perioperative Medicine, who completed the program
last January. On Jan. 24, Jenkins celebrated the first anniversary of
her official “Quit Smoke” day and was invited, along with fellow
non-smoker graduate Kathy Burt, Hematology-Oncology nurse manager, to
address Mallin’s current Quit Now group on Jan. 25.
“I’ve tried to quit smoking many times before,” said Jenkins, a former
smoker of 15 years. “After so many times trying to do this to please
others, I decided last January that I was ready and committed. I wanted
to do this for myself.”
Jenkins and Burt shared their advice and experiences. Burt credited
Mallin’s program, the team support and ongoing communication with
classmates to sustain her weeks and months after the program ended.
“It’s so important to reach out to others, especially through
struggles, to help get you through it,” Burt told the four-member
For information or to register for the next class, call Annie Lovering Steele, 792-1245 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, Jan. 29, 2010