Tobacco Policy

    1. All people enrolled in Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health insurance plans must certify their status as tobacco users or non-users. Adult GBP participants who do not certify their tobacco-use status will be charged the monthly Tobacco User Premium-even if they don't use tobacco.

      You must certify your status as a tobacco user or non-user as well as the status of any of your dependents enrolled in a state health plan-even if you and your covered dependents don't use tobacco. Additionally, state law offers tobacco users in the GBP coverage for prescription drugs to help them quit tobacco. It also authorizes charging higher premiums for people who continue to use tobacco.

    2. Tobacco products are cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, or any other product that contains tobacco. Electronic or e-cigarettes that do not contain tobacco and are designed expressly for smoking cessation are not considered tobacco products. Nicotine replacement products, such as gum and patches, are not considered tobacco products.

      A tobacco user is a person who has used any Tobacco Products five (5) or more times within the pasts three (3) consecutive months. If you or any of your dependents enrolled in a state health plan use tobacco, you will have to pay the higher premium.

    3. Sign in to your account and complete the certification steps or call ERS to certify.
    4. The monthly Tobacco User Premium is $30 per tobacco user who is certified as a tobacco user (up to $90 per household). This cost is in addition to your health insurance premiums.

      The charge for a child is the same regardless of how many children (age 18 or older) in the household use tobacco.

    5. Contact your doctor who can prescribe cessation drugs.

      Your GBP health plan offers tobacco cessation resources, including counseling. Contact your health plan for more information. You can also see if your employer offers a wellness program.

    6. If you or your covered dependents have not used tobacco products five times or more in the previous three months, you can change the certifications to non-tobacco users. Once you update the certifications, the monthly Tobacco User Premiums will end on the first day of the next month.
    7. Choose to Quit is a program that encourages a tobacco-free lifestyle and allows tobacco users to have their Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) tobacco user premiums waived for the plan year. (Program rules apply.

      Choose to Quit program rules are as follows

      • contact your doctor (M.D. or D.O.) and discuss which tobacco cessation program is right for you;
      • complete that program;
      • return to your doctor, discuss your program completion and have your doctor sign and date your Choose to Quit Certification form ;
      • sign your completed Choose to Quit Certification form; and
      • submit your Choose to Quit Certification form to ERS as soon as possible and have it postmarked no later than the end of your health plan year (August 31 for active employees and non-Medicare retirees and their dependents; December 31 for Medicare retirees and their dependents.)

      ERS will review your form and send a letter letting you know if you are approved to have your tobacco-user premium waived for the remainder of the plan year. You may also be approved to receive a refund of all tobacco-user premiums you have already paid for the plan year.

      For more information, please see the frequently asked questions about Choose to Quit .

    8. You will need to change your certification status or risk a penalty, fraud investigation, or termination from the GBP health plans. Any member caught falsifying information will be charged the premium amount owed for the entire time the member was employed by the State during the period the increased premiums for tobacco use were in effect.

      If you have witnessed someone insured through the GBP, including a dependent, using a tobacco product five or more times within the past three consecutive months, please report this information to ERS.

    9. Between April 24, 2013 and January 31, 2014, ERS reached out to members and benefits coordinators/HR representatives through 40 communications. Every member enrolled in a Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health plan received information in his or her Annual Enrollment packet. In addition, all members who had not certified their and/or their dependents' tobacco use or non-use by the end of their Annual Enrollment periods received postcards and automated phone calls asking them to certify before the August 31 deadline. ERS sent an additional letter to members who had not certified by the deadline.
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