Starting on January 1, 2012, Dallas County employees in Texas will be required to pay an additional monthly $50 on their health insurance premiums if they smoke.
This increase in premiums will not be charged to nonsmokers, but will also apply to each of the employee’s family members who smoke and who are covered by the health insurance plan provided by the county through the worker’s employment. According to Dallas County, there will be a medical cost savings of $500,000 as soon as next year as a result of this “non-smokers’ discount”.
Dallas County isn’t original in its introduction of higher monthly insurance premiums for smokers. In fact, this decision will include them among a growing number of employers who have already adopted this rule.
The concept itself isn’t new, either, as it was first put into place in the 1980’s following the release of a statistic by the standard-setting organization, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which stated that approximately 60 to 80 percent of all American healthcare expenses could be connected to potentially controllable circumstances, such as using drugs or alcohol, driving drunk, driving without a seatbelt, having unprotected sex, and smoking.
As only certain fragments of the population took part in these “controllable” activities, it became clear that everyone else was paying for the medical care linked to those behaviors and the NAIC speculated that it might make sense to require people making choices that weren’t as healthy to pay more for healthcare coverage than those who were making healthier choices.