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The Daily Tar Heel

Pay for your choices: Higher insurance for smokers, obese makes sense

North Carolina is weighing in on the fatty cost of state employee health insurance.

This month, the state notified all its employees that if they are obese or if they smoke, they will pay more for health insurance in the near future.

This is a good move. Taxpayers who lead a healthy lifestyle should not be forced to pay for those state workers who do not.

State employees who use tobacco or have a body mass index above a specified level and don’t quit smoking or lose weight will be placed in an insurance plan that pays 70 percent of claims.

About a third of state workers are currently overweight and about 14 percent smoke.

Employees who can prove that they don’t smoke and that they meet the body mass threshold can choose an option paying 80 percent of claims.

Mandating state employees who don’t meet certain health guidelines to pay an extra 10 percent is the right thing to do.

The state will do random checks on people who say they are not smokers.

Tobacco users will be placed in a more expensive insurance plan beginning in July and, for those who qualify as obese, in July 2011.

The state is expanding free programs to help employees quit smoking and lose weight.

The new health care plan will encourage individuals to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Rapidly rising premiums are having an impact on state budgets, and economic pressures are pushing the state to increase employees’ share of health care costs, co-payments and deductibles.

Research indicates that smoking, the use of tobacco products and obesity are three conditions that directly contribute to 50 percent of North Carolina plan members who suffer from chronic diseases that raise health-care costs.

The plan spends about $2,000 more each year on smokers.

It is imperative for North Carolina to keep a healthy workforce.

Smoking and obesity are the leading causes of preventable deaths in our state.

Not only will this plan save money for the state, but it also has the potential to encourage more healthy lifestyles.

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