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Health Plan to Smokers: Butt Out

The State Health Plan targets smokers with higher premiums as part of an effort to bring financial stability to the historically troubled program.

Smokers will pay $20 more a month for health insurance premiums unless they opt for a less generous plan under a proposal approved by the board of trustees of the State Health Plan yesterday. The plan covers 668,000 state employees, including most NC State faculty, staff and retirees.

The board also agreed to make monthly premiums more costly for subscribers who don’t designate a primary care provider and for those who don’t have an annual health assessment.

The state treasurer’s office, which oversees the health plan, prefers a “glass half full” view of the changes, promoting them as premium credits for the majority of people who make smart health choices.

SEANC, a union representing more than 50,000 state workers, opposed the penalties. The group’s legislative affairs director, Ardis Watkins, told trustees the extra monthly cost was, “a huge stick you’re trying to disguise as a carrot.”

State Health Plan premiums will rise an average of 4.7 percent in 2014 and 2015, the treasurer’s office said.

A 2009 state audit found that the efforts to control costs at the State Health Plan were hampered by the generous terms of its contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.


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