Tobacco Surcharge FAQs
A: As a world-renowned university with vital roles in preserving and improving life, UAB has a responsibility to be among leaders in health and wellness initiatives. The use of tobacco is one of the leading preventable health risks worldwide. As part of other efforts around tobacco usage on campus and in support of our wellness programs, UAB believes this is the right thing to do.
Q: Who is required to declare their tobacco usage?
A: All UAB employees electing a UAB medical plan for 2016 during Annual Open Enrollment will be required to declare tobacco usage for themselves.
Q: Who does the tobacco surcharge apply to?
A: The tobacco surcharge only applies to UAB employees. It does not apply to dependents covered under the medical plan.
Q: What is the amount of the tobacco surcharge?
A: A $50 monthly tobacco surcharge will be applied to employees who declare tobacco usage. This surcharge is considered a tax-sheltered amount for payroll.
Q: What products are considered for tobacco usage?
A: Annual declared tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, pipes and oral smokeless tobacco products.
Q: If I am solely using tobacco cessation products in my effort to stop tobacco, does that count as a tobacco product subject to the surcharge?
A: No. Certain tobacco cessation products are available to UAB employees as part of the benefits package at no co-pay with an annual limit of two 12-week cycles of treatment. UAB recognizes these products as tools to help quit tobacco.
Q: If I currently use tobacco and wish to have the surcharge removed, what can I do?
A: You can register for one of the cessation courses available here by Jan. 31, 2016. If you then subsequently complete the course, the tobacco surcharge will be removed for 2016 and refunded back to the beginning of the 2016 plan year.
Q: If I register by Jan. 31, 2016 and complete the cessation course but continue using tobacco, what happens to the surcharge?
A: Completion of the cessation course is the only way to discontinue the surcharge for the 2016 plan year. During the next Annual Open Enrollment, employees will be asked to declare their tobacco usage for the 2017 plan year.
Q: What if I am a tobacco user and do not register for a cessation course by Jan. 31, 2016, or I register by January 31, 2016, and don’t complete the course?
A: If you do not register by Jan. 31, 2016 and subsequently complete the course, the surcharge will continue for the plan year.
UAB institutes monthly surcharge for tobacco users
It has become a growing trend nationally both in large corporations and within higher education to institute surcharges for tobacco users. According to the Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans 2014, 30-40 percent of other large employers have introduced some type of tobacco or nicotine premium charge; for example, Alabama Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP) has already instituted a similar policy.
According to research released in 2013 by the Ohio State University’s School of Public Health, the average cost to an employer per smoker is $5,816 per year. The faculty and staff of UAB’s Benefits Committee unanimously recommended the surcharge in an effort to help offset higher health care costs of tobacco users and incentivize healthy choices among UAB’s most important asset—its people.
“UAB is dedicated to encouraging and ensuring a healthy environment and lifestyle for all of its employees,” said Meg Baker, director of UAB Employee Wellness. “The implementation of the UAB tobacco surcharge is in keeping with the actions of other higher education institutions and large corporations, and we are excited to join the ranks of employers committed to helping their employees live the highest quality of life possible.”
During this year’s active Open Enrollment, UAB faculty and staff enrolling in a UAB medical plan must declare whether they are a tobacco user, and the fee will be assessed accordingly. Cessation resources and discounted products are available to UAB employees; as part of the UAB employee benefits packages, tobacco cessation products are available at no co-pay with the annual limit of two 12-week cycles of treatment. If tobacco users would like the $50/month surcharge discontinued, they must register for one of the two cessation courses below by Jan. 31, 2016, and complete the course following registration.
- The UAB Employee Assistance and Counseling Center offers four free tobacco counseling sessions, either in one-on-one or group sessions. Contact the EACC at 205-934-2281 or find more info at uab.edu/eacc.
- The Alabama State Quitline offers free coaching and a personalized quit plan, a five-call program one time per week, a completion certificate, and eight weeks of free nicotine patches based on eligibility. Contact the Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or find more info at quitnowalabama.com.