Area smokers could pay more on health insurance

Area smokers could pay more on health insurance

Amarillo, TX - Big changes are being made to the health insurance plans of many area employers.

This means some employees will be penalized and others will be rewarded.

Smoking costs the U.S. billions of dollars annually, the Centers for Disease Control estimates an employee with the bad habit costs and employer 18-percent more.

In an effort to save money and encourage living a health lifestyle more and more area employers are taking action.

Smoking is known as a costly bad habit, now it could end up costing you even more.

"This is a trend you'll be finding going on around the country. It's a way of cutting costs as best you can. So much of the healthcare costs are attributed to tobacco use," says Harvey Hudspeth, Human Resources, West Texas A&M University.

Employers we spoke with say there are several benefits.

"If you can help employees improve their health then you get the benefit of their increased potential productivity. You also have them more focused on work whenever they're not focused on health issues that they've incurred through tobacco use," says Harvey Hudspeth, Human Resources, West Texas A&M University.

Within the next few months, tobacco users who work at West Texas A&M will have to pay $30 more monthly.

AISD will begin charging smokers $25 more but there are ways to get their premium reduced.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has just implemented the change.

"Thirty dollars for the employee, thirty dollars if their spouse is a tobacco user and thirty dollars if they have one or more children who smoke or use tobacco," says Devona Smith, Human Resources, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Texas Oncology has become a non-smoking campus and requires their employees to be a certain amount of feet away from the building to smoke. They are charged $200 more a month.

In addition, area railroad company, Union Pacific is going one step farther... They have decided not to hire smokers at all.

Some employers like AISD, the City of Amarillo and area doctors say they also have wellness benefit programs; meaning if you are a non-smoker, have a certain body mass index, or participate in fitness activities you could receive incentives like a lower deductible.