Nearly Half Of Small Employers Using Tobacco Surcharges Do Not Provide Tobacco Cessation Wellness Programs
Author: Michael F. Pesko, Jaskaran Bains, (Johanna) Catherine Maclean, Benjamin Lê Cook
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed employer plans in the small-group marketplace to charge tobacco users up to 50 percent more for premiums—known as tobacco surcharges—but only if the employer offered a tobacco cessation program and the employee in question failed to participate in it. Using 2016 survey data collected by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust on 278 employers eligible for Small Business Health Options Program, we examined the prevalence of tobacco surcharges and tobacco cessation programs in the small-group market under this policy and found that 16.2 percent of small employers used tobacco surcharges. Overall, 47 percent of employers used tobacco surcharges but failed to offer tobacco cessation counseling. Wellness program prevalence was lower in states that allowed tobacco surcharges, and 10.8 percent of employers in these states were noncompliant with the ACA by charging tobacco users higher premiums without offering cessation programs. Efforts should be undertaken to improve the monitoring and enforcement of ACA tobacco rating rules.