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New tobacco policy

Requires certification for all health plan enrollees—even if you don’t use tobacco

All people enrolled in Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health insurance plans must certify their status as tobacco users or non-users. Beginning September 1, 2013, GBP members who do not certify their tobacco-use status will be charged a monthly tobacco user premium—even if they don’t use tobacco.

Under the new policy, you must certify that you and your dependents do or do not use tobacco, or be charged a premium of $30 each (up to $90 per household per month). You have until August 31, 2013 to certify, to avoid incurring the additional premium for non-certification beginning in September. The new policy is based on legislation passed in the recent session.

Currently, fewer than 5.5% of GBP health insurance participants have certified as tobacco users. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than 20% of people in the United States use tobacco. This means that probably not everyone in the GBP who uses tobacco has certified as a tobacco user.

The following chart provides an overview of who will pay an additional $30 premium each month (up to $90 per household). Please note that only adults who fail to certify will be charged the additional premium; those under 18 who are not certified will not be charged. Certified tobacco users of any age—adults and minors—will be charged.

 

Certified as Tobacco User 

Certified as Non-user 

Failed to Certify 

Member  Pays Doesn't Pay Pays
Covered Adult Dependent (18 Years and Over) Pays Doesn't Pay Pays
Covered Child Dependent (Under 18 Years) Pays Doesn't Pay Doesn't Pay

What is a tobacco product?

Cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, and any other products that contain tobacco are considered tobacco products. Electronic or e-cigarettes that do not contain tobacco and are designed to help people quit smoking are not considered tobacco products. Nicotine replacement products, such as gum and patches, are not considered tobacco products. To certify that you do not use tobacco, you must not have used a tobacco product more than five times in the previous three months.

How do you certify?

Certifying is easy and can be done online in just a few minutes. Simply complete the following steps.

  1. Sign in to your ERS account from the upper left hand corner. (If you have not signed in before, you may need to register your account.)
  2. Under My Insurance Information, click on Tobacco User Certification.
  3. On the Tobacco User Certification page, check “Yes” or “No” to accurately indicate your status as a tobacco user or non-user and do the same for all your dependents.
  4. Check the box that indicates you understand.


You can also contact your agency benefits coordinator or call ERS toll-free at (866)399-6908 to certify your tobacco use.

We recognize this is a significant change and will be communicating with you throughout Annual Enrollment about the new certification policy. You will receive additional information in your Annual Enrollment packet, including information on your Personal Benefits Enrollment Statement about whether you and your dependents are certified.

If you haven’t certified already, please take a few minutes between now and August 31 to certify yourself and your dependents.