New information from the North Carolina State Employee Health Plan shows North Carolina to be the second state in the US to start penalizing state employees if they are obese by placing them in a more expensive insurance plan. Smokers will also feel the increase as they are also slated to pay more for health insurance starting next year.
"Tobacco use, poor nutrition, and inactivity are the leading causes of preventable deaths in our State," said Anne Rodgers, Director of integrated health management with the State's Employee Health Plan. "We need a healthy workforce in this State. We're trying to encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles".
Close to 600,000 state employees, teachers and retirees received a packet describing the State Health Plan's new Wellness Initiative. The initiatives affect some 560,000 members — everyone except for those on Medicare.
The good news is that for both programs, anyone trying to quit or to lose weight is enough to qualify them for the cheaper insurance plan.
The legislature instituted the initiatives to help shore up the troubled plan which the legislature had to bail out to the tune of $250 million dollars last year. The idea is that smokers and obese people are a greater health risk and therefore more expensive for an insurance plan to cover.
While officials have not yet estimated any potential savings from the obesity requirement, "the higher costs for smokers could save $13 million in the 2010-2011 budget year", Rogers said, emphasizing that the plan's priority is to improve health and save money in the process.
Money is the best motivator when it comes to behavior change! Good luck North Carolina!