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If you’re a smoker who also has a few pounds to lose, it may cost you come January.
As reported this morning by NBCNews.com, about 40 percent of larger companies will begin charging unhealthy employees for higher health insurance premiums. And this number, according to a survey conducted by the human resources consultancy Towers Watson and National Business Group on Health, is projected to rise to 75 percent by 2015.
Some companies have already started penalizing overweight or obese employees, making it mandatory to take part in “employer wellness programs” (i.e. join a gym or smoking-cessation program, meet with a nutritionist) in order to receive health insurance. However, 60 percent of those workers had to pay for that out of their own pockets.
Those who will be hit even harder in the wallet in 2014 are smokers. State employees, nonunion employees and employees of larger companies will pay a penalty. Here’s the reason: On the average, a business will pay $6,000 more annually for each smoker.
When the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in January, companies can reward obese or smoking employees who complete the better health programs by paying 30 percent of the employee's overall health care costs. That's incentive, right? But (and there's always a but), if this reward system doesn't work, employers can pass the costs on to all their other employees or severely penalize those who opt out of these wellness programs.
Some are afraid that the hardest strain will be on those who earn in the minimum wage category because they're more likely to smoke and be obese, and the least likely to be able to afford help.
So how will this affect your benefits? I really can’t answer that question. I guess we're all waiting to see. Personally speaking, I’m still waiting for an insurance quote from HealthCare.gov.
Generally speaking, I don't see one downside in taking action to improve your overall quality of life. Every step counts and I truly believe that one counselor, one book, one piece of advice, or maybe even one heath article, can make all the difference.