Insurance costs will increase for state educators who smoke

by Lesley Politi on May 7, 2009

When Quoting Health Insurance in California, a smoker may have higher rates then a non-smoker. The insurance carrier does consider smoking as a pre-existing condition when applying for Medical Insurance.

Alabama’s health insur­ance plan for public educa­tion employees is going to keep the same basic rates for most participants when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, but smokers will have to pay slightly more.

The board of the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan de­cided Friday to maintain the same basic rates for active employees: $2 per month for individual coverage, $132 for dependent coverage and $134 for family coverage. The rates for retired education employees will also stay the same.

The board unanimously raised the surcharge for smokers by $2 per month to a total of $25 starting Oct. 1. That affects about 20,000 peo­ple.

As a cost-saving measure, the board voted to eliminate all of its wellness program except flu shots. Deputy Di­rector Marc Reynolds said eliminating health screen­ings, osteoporosis screen­ings, Weight Watchers and other features of the well­ness program should save $3.5 million in the new fiscal year. But he said it could be more costly in the long run if illnesses are detected later and the treatment is more expensive.

The board had to look for cost savings and revenue generators because the edu­cation budget passed by the Legislature on Thursday provided for no increase in funding for health insur­ance for the 284,655 active and retired employees and dependents who have cover­age. The Legislature did that, at the request of the Alabama Education, to put as much money as possible toward maintaining school jobs during the recession.

AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert, who is also chairman of the insurance board, said Friday that un­less the economy makes a quick recovery, an increase in rates will likely be neces­sary in a year.

“Next year we are going to have a bigger problem,” he told the board.

The state’s other health insurance board for non-ed­ucation employees, the State Employees’ Insurance Board, will meet in the sum­mer to make decisions for the next fiscal year.


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