County Encourages Tobacco Users to Quit

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Blue Ridge, Ga – Board of Commissioners offer county employees incentives to quit tobacco in the 2019 healthcare plan.

In a called meeting of the Board of Commissioners, the commissioners added a $50 a month surcharge to monthly premiums for tobacco users. Studies have shown that tobacco use causes poor health in individuals who partake over a number of years. The addition to the premium is an effort to promote good health among the employees of the county government.

Fannin County employees have six months to stop using tobacco, starting on July 1.

“The fair thing is to give employees a chance, a timeframe to stop, to cease the use of tobacco and then along with that plan to offer some tools that helps them to get off of it,” said Chairman Stan Helton.

Sheriff Dane Kirby confirmed with Chief Financial Officer Robin Gazaway that current premiums and how the $50 monthly charge would break down week to week.

“It would be about $11.50 or $12 extra a week,” said Gazaway.

Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson asked, “Are we going to provide them with things to help them stop?”

Benefit Support’s Representative Lena Andrews assured him that the health plan will offer them tools to quit. Starting in July, which is when the new healthcare year will start, tobacco users will have access to cessation methods as well that the county will pay for. They can choose the patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler,  and nasal spray to help them quit.

County employees have six months to stop their tobacco use before the $50 surcharge goes into effect.

However, if employees haven’t quit by January 2020, they will be charged the $50 surcharge on their insurance premium. January 1, 2020, would be when the county sent out the first surcharge. Employees can also choose to quit to take advantage of the cessation methods at any time.

Additionally, the county included a spousal carve-out clause to their insurance plans. Essentially, if an employee’s husband or wife has the opportunity to be insured by their employer, then they must be covered through their employer.

“If the spouse has access to coverage through their employer, then that spouse is required to sign up for coverage through that employer. They can stay on the county if so desired, but the county becomes secondary to the other group health insurance plan,” explained Total Insurance Representative Ron Offord, “That being said, a lot of employers don’t offer spousal coverage because they are allowed to do that under Affordable Care Act plans.”

Spouses have 60 days to make the change, and the effective date must be July 1 for the individual to be covered on their new plan. The healthcare providers plan to meet with each and every employee to go through all the details.

A prescription step-up plan was also added, which states the lowest cost prescription is the first choice by the healthcare plan. If a doctor prescribes a more expensive prescription, however, the insurance will cover the cost.

No raises in insurance premiums this year for Fannin County employees.

The county’s making these changes in an effort to keep employee premiums down and provide the most benefit to everyone. The program’s self-funded and claims greatly affect health insurance rates, so by helping employees become healthier and fewer people on the insurance plans the rates can remain low.

“We’re not raising, this year, their premiums,” said Helton, “it will happen. We don’t know when, but we felt strongly that we needed to look at some other options before going to the pocketbook.”

Post One Commissioner was absent during this called meeting, and all present department heads decided the changes were fair when asked at the end of the meeting.

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