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May 12, 2005

Georgia State Employees Upset Over Smoking Surcharge

Posted in: General

If you work for the Georgia state government in any capacity and you smoke, your insurance will increase $40 a month.

That one statement shows me that government is not all bad. People choose to smoke. I chose to smoke for 17 years. If you smoke, you have a much greater chance of getting sick and in your later years your health issues are typically more expensive than non smokers. Oh, did I mention that people choose to smoke.

What amazes me is that anyone who opposed this want to be quoted in a newspaper.

Teachers and other state employees who smoke will have to pay $40 a month more for health insurance starting July 1.

Employees are fuming over the surcharge, which hits state workers, public school teachers and their families who admit to smoking or using tobacco in the past 12 months.

Pardons and Paroles and a smoker, said her insurance was jumping from $74 to $117 a month.

“That’s a lot of money for many state employees,” she said. “Our hands are tied. We have to have health insurance. What are we to do?”

About 650,000 people are on the state health insurance plan.

Three states — West Virginia, Alabama and Kentucky — are already imposing a surcharge on health insurance for employees who smoke, a trend that has been sweeping private industry as well.

In Georgia, state employees are expected to abide by the honor system when they sign up for insurance coverage and are asked whether they use tobacco, said Tim Burgess, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health. Those caught lying will lose their insurance for a year, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) said the surcharge, which helps limit the increase in premiums for state employees, was adopted to fill a projected $400 million shortfall in the insurance fund. Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed a 13 percent rise in premiums, but lawmakers dropped it to 9.5 percent.

“Smokers are very expensive. In the private sector, you pay more if you are a smoker and you pay more for your spouse,” Williams said.

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