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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Not very magical, still... » » Insurance Companies Playing Hardball with Smokers (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

daffydoug
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I got a little tip off from our HR manager today at work about what's coming down the pike for smokers..at least where I work.

He tells me that at the end of the year, when it comes time for open enrollment in the insurance program, we will all be asked the following: "Are you a smoker or a non smoker?"

If we are acapnotic..(non smoking) we will slip right into the enrollment without a hitch..however, smokers will run into a snag. They will be asked if they would COMMIT to a smoking cessation program. If they will they can get insurance..if not, they will be left out in the cold.

Now I'm not dumb, there are certain things implicit in that statement. Not the least of which is the "C" word. COMMITMENT. If one commits to a smoking cessation program, then it is given that one has made up their mind to kick the habit. If one has resolved to do that, then me thinks one is going to answer to the insurance company two, three, four months down the road as to whether they really followed through on the commitment. They are going to expect a little more than "lip service" from those who commit. (no pun intended, smokers.)

Bottom line? I think the pressure is going to be on and the insurance company is going to expect real, tangible results from the "committed". You want insurance? No tickee, no shirtee!

My opinion, for what it's worth.

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MagicSanta
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I don't like being called acapnotic
daffydoug
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Well, it's not as bad as being called fumacious....
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Doug Higley
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So what if you Commit but don't succeed? They take it back?
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daffydoug
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Well, my thought is that the NEXT open enrollment, when you are asking for coverage for the following year, is when that indiscretion will be brought up...

(Just my guess)
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evolve629
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Asking patients whether they smoke and offer treatment to stop smoking are pretty standard in most hospitals intake process. Smokers are not allowed to smoke near certain federal buildings or on federal ground, except destined areas.
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daffydoug
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I have seen that where I live. But I work in a factory. Recently, they made a huge prominent bulletin board and posted large pictures they had pulled from the internet ( http://www.menshealth.com ) of the worst foods in America. The idea is to make employees aware of what's bad for them, and encourage them to make healthier decisions as far as their eating habits. Then shortly after that, came the news about what they will be expecting from smokers. tsk, tsk, tsk.

They have even tipped me off that we will be assigned a personal health coach at the factory.

Doesn't bother me, though! I am acapnotic (don't smoke) I am extremely careful about my diet choices, and when last measured (by the company) my weight, pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, cholesterol, etc were all within a very healthy range. Above average, in fact for my age. So I will slide right on through whatever they bring on us, pressure wise. I won't even break a sweat! Bring on the health coach! He will be like the Maytag repairman with me.

In fact, I might be laughing (good naturedley) at others who are have not been diligent about their health habits and are in the pressure cooker to change!
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MagicSanta
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What do you do in this factory?
evolve629
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Are insurance companies going to tap how much red meat people eat and how many steps they take each day? Good grief, this is just too much Big Brother stuff.. On the other hand, how do we raise awareness on health, diet, lifestyle, etc? Fear and punishment are not the answer..
One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in - Wayne Gretzky
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Tom Cutts
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Insurance is a wager game. Insurers are just protecting their business interest. Those with bad habbits or addictions which are driving up the cost for the average person beyond their ability to pay may be:

1. culled from the system
2. charged a commensurate amount for their high risk activities
3. told certain more likely ailments based on their actions will not be covered

It is the nature of business.
LobowolfXXX
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Quote:
On 2008-07-05 21:43, Tom Cutts wrote:
Insurance is a wager game. Insurers are just protecting their business interest. Those with bad habbits or addictions which are driving up the cost for the average person beyond their ability to pay may be:


BAM. And if you take care of yourself in ways that pay dividends for your health (e.g. not smoking) is it right that the insurance company NOT take that into account and charge you less? (talking here about situations where the company isn't picking up the tab, obviously).
"Torture doesn't work" lol
Guess they forgot to tell Bill Buckley.

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Margarette
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I guess next is for insurance companies to start asking how many alcoholic drinks one has during the week or how much fast food one eats during the week or how much exercise one does or doesn't get during the week.....

I'm not a smoker...never tried it, never want to, but my dad is a smoker, along with my sister and brother. My mom quit after forty years...and at least the last ten of those years she was around a four pack a day smoker. My question is...since the insurance company is basically demanding the people quit, are they paying for the smoking cessation program? Just because one commits to the program doesn't mean it will be a success. Remember, not everyone who goes through detox stays clean and sober!
The only stupid question is the one not asked.
LobowolfXXX
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Is the insurance company demanding people quit, or is the employer? I don't think insurance companies mind insuring smokers; they've got the actuaries at the ready. But it's going to cost more. Health benefits are part of your compensation package as an employee (i.e. public entities that hire people to fill positions like new police officers view the cost as "salary plus benefits"). If the insurance companies want to charge your employer more to cover the increased risks/costs that you're bringing about, the question is, are you worth it to your employer? It's not a very different question than two applicants for a job, one has a salary demand of $50,000 and the other has a salary demand of $60,000.
"Torture doesn't work" lol
Guess they forgot to tell Bill Buckley.

"...as we reason and love, we are able to hope. And hope enables us to resist those things that would enslave us."
MagicSanta
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My struggle with insurance right now is convincing my new insurance company that I had no break in insurance so preexisting is covered. I'm still paying my COBRA until they admit that I've not had a break in insurance in over 20 years....
daffydoug
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Here is an article I read today about the new attitude that seems to be dawning for employers. It goes even BEYOND your health habits:

5 Lifestyle Activities That Can Get You Fired


Can having a bacon double cheeseburger and a cigarette put your job at risk? Maybe. It may sound surprising, but many off-the-job actions and lifestyles could put your job in jeopardy.

Fair Game?

Employment experts point out five key areas that a company may scrutinize:

* Smoking, drinking, and overeating. Due to the cost of health insurance, more and more employers view "unhealthy" habits as a threat to their bottom line.
* Risky behavior. Likewise, a company might see your bungee jumping hobby as a liability.
* Speech. Will your employer consider your blogging to be destructive griping?
* Romantic relationships. Dating someone at a competitor's company has landed employees in hot water. And some employers might take issue with unmarried coupling or even same-sex relationships (federal law doesn't protect employees from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation).
* Political activity. Volunteering for Obama could be trouble if you have a pro-McCain boss, and vice versa.

Job- or industry-specific behaviors can lead to termination as well. A Ford worker who drives a Toyota is probably safe -- unless he or she is president of Ford. But a bank employee who bounces a personal check could get the boot.

Cause or Just Because

If these reasons for termination seem unfair, they must be illegal, right? Not necessarily. Just because most employers don't let valued employees loose for off-the-job activities and lifestyles, doesn't mean they can't.

"Most workers in the private sector don't understand that, unless they live in Montana and Arizona, their job is at-will," Paul Secunda, an assistant professor of law at the University of Mississippi, told Yahoo! HotJobs. "At-will means an employee can be fired for good cause or no cause at all," Secunda said.

Federal job protections include gender, race, religion, and national origin, as well as disability. "Some state laws forbid discrimination on other bases, including sexual orientation, or status as a smoker," said Rick Bales, a professor at Northern Kentucky University/Chase College of Law. Smokers in the tobacco-growing state of Kentucky, for example, are safe from termination, he said.

Don't Be Fooled

Although union members and public sector (government) workers generally have more protections, employees in the private sector -- the bulk of the U.S. workforce -- can be fired at any time, and usually without recourse.

"Unless you were fired because you are a member of a protected class under federal law, or under another state statute, it's likely not illegal," said Kimberly Malerba, an associate who litigates employment cases with Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., a law firm on Long Island, New York.

The good news is that most companies don't go out of their way to snoop into employees' lives, Malerba told Yahoo HotJobs. "A company is most concerned with (off-the-job) behaviors that directly conflict with business interests."

5 Tips to Consider

Legal experts have advice for protecting your job from unexpected dangers:

* Understand the concept of at-will employment. Don't assume that termination must be illegal just because you think it was unfair.
* Be fully aware of your company's policies and terms of employment. Read the employee handbook, and ask HR if you have any questions.
* Be familiar with the company's internal dispute mechanisms (if any) for filing grievances.
* Think before you act. Could your employer see your actions off the job as potentially destructive to the company?
* Don't disclose. "You don't have to disclose lifestyle choices or off-the-clock activities unless there is a clear link to your ability to perform the job," Secunda said.

"My general advice is, don't do anything on your own time that, if reported in the local paper, would reflect poorly on you or your employer," Bales told Yahoo! HotJobs.
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JRob
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The part that gets me is they treat all smoking the same way. If you smoke cigars or pipes (not inhaled and not necessarily smoked on a regular basis. I might smoke my pipe once a week or less and the same with cigars. If you answer, "yes" you are asked, "how many packs a day?" That question does not apply to either cigars or pipes.
Secondly, and how's this for a paradox, life insurance companies give a discount to those who smoke pipes or cigars in moderation. They tend to be not as stressed and fewer blood pressure problems.
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daffydoug
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Truth is stranger than fiction!
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Tom Bartlett
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Quote:
On 2008-07-05 19:49, evolve629 wrote:
Are insurance companies going to tap how much red meat people eat and how many steps they take each day? Good grief, this is just too much Big Brother stuff.. On the other hand, how do we raise awareness on health, diet, lifestyle, etc? Fear and punishment are not the answer..


Big Brother stuff would be government imposed, where you have no chose. Where privet companies are the insurance provider and you chose to work for them all is fair. Especially if it means, a lower cost for health coverage for those that do not smoke.
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LobowolfXXX
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Strongly agree w/Tom. You can ask them anything you want; they can answer or choose not to, and you can decide whether or not you want to work there based on all the information that their answers or non-answers provide you. I can't think of a good reason why it shouldn't work the same way for them deciding whether or not they want you to work there (especially when the question bears a direct bearing on what it's going to cost them for you to work there).
"Torture doesn't work" lol
Guess they forgot to tell Bill Buckley.

"...as we reason and love, we are able to hope. And hope enables us to resist those things that would enslave us."
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