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. As part of other efforts around nicotine 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 nicotine usage?
A: All UAB employees electing a UAB medical plan for 2016 during Annual Open Enrollment will be required to declare nicotine usage for themselves. The nicotine declaration only applies to the employee. It does not apply to dependents covered under the medical plan.
Q: What is the amount of the nicotine surcharge?
A: A $50 monthly nicotine surcharge will be applied to employees who declare nicotine usage. This surcharge is considered a tax-sheltered amount for payroll.
Q: What products are considered for nicotine usage?
A: Annual declared nicotine products include cigarettes, vaping and/or electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipes and oral smokeless tobacco products.
Q: If I am solely using nicotine cessation products in my effort to stop nicotine, does that count as a nicotine product subject to the surcharge?
A: No. Certain nicotine 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 nicotine.
Q: If I currently use nicotine and wish to have the surcharge removed, what can I do?
A: You can register for one of the cessation courses available here (link to Wellness) by January 31, 2016. If you then subsequently complete the course, the nicotine surcharge will be removed for 2016 and refunded back to the beginning of the plan year.
Q: If I register by January 31, 2016, and complete the cessation course but continue using nicotine, 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 nicotine usage for the 2017 plan year.
Q: What if I am a nicotine user and do not register for a cessation course by January 31, 2016, or I register by January 31, 2016 and don’t complete the course?
A: If you do not register by January 31, 2016, and subsequently complete the course, the surcharge will continue for the plan year.
More answers coming soon.
It has become a growing trend nationally both in large corporations and within higher education to institute surcharges for nicotine 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 nicotine 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 nicotine 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 nicotine 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, nicotine cessation products are available at no co-pay with the annual limit of two 12-week cycles of treatment. If nicotine users would like the $50/month surcharge discontinued, they must register for one of the two cessation courses below by January 31, 2016, and complete the course following registration.
- The UAB Employee Assistance and Counseling Center offers four free nicotine 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.