City leaders discuss putting smokers out

  • Follow Metro

If you're a city of Augusta employee who smokes and has been thinking of quitting, now might be a good time to do it.

The puff police might be on the horizon.

A smoke-free workforce could save the city about 5 percent in insurance premium costs over time, a BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia representative told members of the Augusta Commission's administrative services committee on Monday.

The subject arose when commissioners questioned costs, benefit changes and exclusions in the proposed 2008 contract with BlueCross BlueShield.

Committee Chairman Jimmy Smith asked City Administrator Fred Russell whether it would be possible to have a smoke-free workforce.

Mr. Russell said it was possible, but it wouldn't be easy.

"Other places do," he said. "It usually causes a great deal of turmoil with staff and those kinds of things there. Or you could charge more for people that smoke."

But there's a downside to that, too.

"Then you end up with people lying to you about whether or not they smoke, to be honest with you, in a lot of cases," he said. "Not all cases."

However, smokers do affect the city's health-care costs, he said.

"The smoker traditionally has more respiratory problems," he said. "Their family has more problems - not individually, but on the average."

And smokers aren't the only ones who could end up paying higher premiums.

Out-of-shape workers who don't exercise also drive up insurance costs, Mr. Russell said.

"Those are the kinds of things we're going to have to do over a period of time as we start looking at that," he said. "Smoking is something that is tough to tackle, but other places have and other places do, and it saves them money."

The full Augusta Commission will discuss the contract renewal at next Tuesday's meeting.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (41) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
DeborahElliott2
4
Points
DeborahElliott2 09/25/07 - 02:10 am
0
0
Here we go again with all

Here we go again with all that crap about those who smoke or don't and those who are overweight! Get your heads out of your butts long enough to realize that healthcare does NOT have a CAP on them and costs will go up regardless--eventually, you will be a high risk on healthcare no matter what your situation cause it is called "GREED"!!!!!!!

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 09/25/07 - 03:13 am
0
0
Deborah, the greed element

Deborah, the greed element wouldn't enter into the equation if the government wasn't keeping the prices inflated. Competition would bring the cost of health care into line. Unfortunately, since everyone seems to feel health care is a 'right' then 'greed' will continue.

GACopperhead
6
Points
GACopperhead 09/25/07 - 03:58 am
0
0
Then they should eliminate

Then they should eliminate anyone with aids or any chronic disease.

Jenn30907
0
Points
Jenn30907 09/25/07 - 05:14 am
0
0
If employers pay for

If employers pay for drug/alcohol rehab, why not pay for the tools a smoker needs to quit? Why not install or have cheap helth club memberships for the overweight? Employers truly concerned about employee health would do this. It's all about the bottom line. I'm so sick of health care companies blaming smokers. Read between the line people. They are just looking for a scapegoat to their excessive spending and inflation of prices. I've known more non-smokers that died from cancer than smokers.

PTHS2
0
Points
PTHS2 09/25/07 - 05:22 am
0
0
What if a smoker doesn't want

What if a smoker doesn't want to quit? Don't assume we all want to stop.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 09/25/07 - 05:33 am
0
0
not many addicts want to

not many addicts want to quit. that's how they got to be addicts.

DeborahElliott2
4
Points
DeborahElliott2 09/25/07 - 05:43 am
0
0
Patricia--What

Patricia--What competition???? If you haven't noticed, healthcare is a rare competition in these parts (especially the south). Hell, even our veterans and military benefits have been cut to such extremes that anyone living outside of a 25 mile mark of any post that has a hospital forks out a higher co-pay.

gab91494
0
Points
gab91494 09/25/07 - 06:11 am
0
0
Hmmmm.....sounds like

Hmmmm.....sounds like discrimination. If this is the case, then a survey should be done for those who drink alcohol and their premiums raised as well due to the affects that it has on health. As far as that goes, you can say that those who drink are more likely to wreck due to drinking and driving, thus creating higher medical bills due to injuries. It seems to me that the government is trying to come into one's home and run it. Also, how would Fred Russell feel if someone said they are going up on his medical due to him wearing glasses and needing more medical attention due to those problems. Heck, you might as well say, if you drive your health care premiums are going up because you are at higher risk for medical bills due to injuries from a wreck. I know this sounds crazy but I am just making a point and showing how stupid this is.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 09/25/07 - 06:25 am
0
0
DeborahElliott2, if the

DeborahElliott2, if the government health 'benefits' to social programs recipients and government requirements for health insurance for all contractors doing business with the government weren't mandated, the whole health care system wouldn't respond as though it were rigged. Right now there is no competition and you feel the doctors and caregivers are being greedy. (The reduction of military benefits have never made sense to me either. Not certain how that's relevant to this subject) As long as the government is in the health care business, competition will have no chance.

stormy
0
Points
stormy 09/25/07 - 06:59 am
0
0
Insurance companies take our

Insurance companies take our money and use it to make more money for themselves. But you have to fight to get them to pay what they are supposed to pay. The Government has always wasted our money on foolish things and take from the elderly to fix that. Greed, Greed, Greed.It will only get worse.

KingJames
11
Points
KingJames 09/25/07 - 07:47 am
0
0
I am surprised no one has

I am surprised no one has started yelling about their tax dollars on this issue. The city is finally looking at a way to cut costs and there hasn't been a post yet to say that the commissioners should be commended for trying (maybe because that is so rare?). The bottom line is that health insurance is like auto insurance. Everyone pays for it, but hope they never need it. We do preventive things to our cars like fix the brakes so that we won't cause an accident and drive our insurance costs up. Banning smoking would be a preventive action that the city could take that would save on the cost to the city and it's employees. I would suggest that if the ban was implemented, the city provide smoking cessation courses to its employees, and that the ban be a gradual thing. Insurance is big business. Risky behavior that may eventually result in hospitalization and even death drives the price up for the city. As for drinking and driving, well that also effects insurance, but prohibition of it is enforced by the law. In short, the only thing people can do about insurance costs is try to live healthier.

Reality
3
Points
Reality 09/25/07 - 07:49 am
0
0
So the insurance industry

So the insurance industry charges more to re cooperate their cost. This is nothing new, if there is ever a disaster where the insurance companies are FORCED to pay out they raise all insurance premiums so they won't lose money. This is just another instance of the insurance companies telling you how to live, with the governments approval..

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 09/25/07 - 08:01 am
0
0
People are living longer,

People are living longer, medicine costs more, people demand more coverage. Costs have to rise. The premiums of the masses pay the claims of the few, That's the premis of the insurance business and always has been. You gamble sometjing will happen and the insurance company gambles something will not. As for being greedy, check out the doctors pay-some over a million dollars and higher. MCG gives free insurance to the doctors and their family if they are head of departments, pension plans and college education for all the children. What a perk. But I am glad to have them and am not jealous because they are there when you need them. Bravo to the city for trying to weed out this nasty, stinking habit.

Doe
0
Points
Doe 09/25/07 - 08:10 am
0
0
I just want to say that

I just want to say that before "the government" infringes on THE RIGHTS of working government employees or citizens because of additional costs in ANYTHING, let's get our government to explain how this cost is justified?
"Man's conviction of murder is reversed"!
It's apparently not a waste of tax dollars for a man who has been convicted of murdering a 83 year old woman, while she slept, to get a appeal (our Surpreme Court in action), another trial, and of coarse, a prison stay.
I see that, Committee Chairman Jimmy Smith and City Administrator Fred Russell, are the brain surgeons of this "stopping the waste of tax dollars"......hey guys, why don't you do something really productive and quit wasting my tax dollars on your predjudice attack of people who actually do productive work and smoke. Why don't you do something about our wasted tax dollars used in the court system!

lj
0
Points
lj 09/25/07 - 08:25 am
0
0
I am a county employee & pay

I am a county employee & pay $100 every 2 weeks for 2 person HMO coverage. I thought the excuse for high insurance was retirees & current employees going to the doctor too much!! Now, we're gonna say that it's the smokers & overweight people? PLEASE! I smoke & in fact I haven't been to the doctor in years & haven't even had a cold in over a year! No sinus trouble or anything!! THE COMMISSION NEEDS TO WAKE UP AS USUAL & SEE THAT THE REAL PROBLEM IS THE PERSON MAKING THE NEGOTIATIONS ---- OR SHOULD I SAY...NOT MAKING ANY NEGOTIATIONS!!! PLEASE GIMME A BREAK.

imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 09/25/07 - 08:25 am
0
0
Patricia, medical care

Patricia, medical care currently is on the free market. We do not have universal government health care, yet you speak as if we already do. As for costs, part of it is greed, as that IS the principal of private businesses, competition or not. Their goal is to make more profit for their shareholders. Competing gas stations, supposedly competing record companies (I say supposedly since the RIAA is a collective of all the major labels..collusion anyone?), etc only hold prices in check so far. There are nudge, nudge, wink, wink praise fixesin many supposedly competetive markets. Again, that is part of business unfortunately. Finally the liability insurance hospitals and doctors have to carry end up raising costs, thus raising our medical insurance. Unfortunately I do not want to say throw out all malpractice suites, etc as there are some legitimate cases. I just wish there was a way to weed through the ones that are not. They are largely what drives costs up.

jack
11
Points
jack 09/25/07 - 08:45 am
0
0
A nonsmoking work environment

A nonsmoking work environment is much better for both health and comfort for nonsmokers who have to be exposed to that crap.

jao
0
Points
jao 09/25/07 - 08:47 am
0
0
I am a county employee and a

I am a county employee and a smoker. I do not have insurance coverage through Augusta Richmond County, I am insured through my husband's employer. I do have BCBS and I pay a co-payment of $10 for a doctors visit and $10 - $20 for prescriptions, and $50 for emergency room visits which is waived if I'm admitted to the hospital. If Augusta Richmond County had someone qualified to negotiate insurance premiums for their employees, the costs would not be so high. I would quit my job before I will quit smoking. The Commissioners and the Administrator need to get a handle on the Department responsible for negotiations and this will resolve a lot of issues.

KingJames
11
Points
KingJames 09/25/07 - 08:52 am
0
0
John, I mentioned drinking

John, I mentioned drinking and driving because someone else brought it up in a previous post. All of the things you mentioned like rock climbing, skiing, horseback riding, etc., are things that most people don't do on a daily basis. They are fun and carry some risks, but they don't have bearing on your insurance because you don't do those things for 40 hours per week. What a lot of people don't realize is that if they had to get insurance on their own, they would be asked questions about their occupations and whether or not they smoke. There are cost increases for smokers and for people with high risk occupations like airline pilots. Face it, the healthier you are the less your insurance costs will be. Maybe the city should implement separate low cost plans for non-smokers. Those who smoke would have to pay for more expensive insurance at no additional cost to the city. Tests to detect the presence of nicotine in the body could be given so that there would be no question of employee honesty. That way, those who don't smoke aren't penalized with those who do. Smokers could then continue to enjoy their habit at their own expense.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 09/25/07 - 09:33 am
0
0
This is my first post ever

This is my first post ever and I'm more than glad to do this on a subject of which I have 15+ years of experience in negotitaing terms. The fact is that while medical costs are rising it is still 10% of the work force that creates 90% of the costs. This is due mainly to people not taking care of themselves. As a taxpayer and a commissioner I feel that the city must follow University Hospital and create flexible premiums based on defined criteria. This shifts the burden of higher costs to those that create the situation. I know there are exceptions to the rule but overall this is the only logical solution.

mycomments
377
Points
mycomments 09/25/07 - 09:51 am
0
0
It is stupid, but that's how

It is stupid, but that's how all insurance works...it's all statistics...Car Insurance for example, you have bad credit, you pay more. Does that mean everyone with bad credit is a bad driver? No, but they do it and no one complains.

barbarabridge.bellsouth.
0
Points
barbarabridge.bellsouth. 09/25/07 - 09:53 am
0
0
never met a drinker that did

never met a drinker that did not smoke. rarely meet a smoker that does not drink. let them be. they will face there own fate

KingJames
11
Points
KingJames 09/25/07 - 11:33 am
0
0
John, I agree that allowing

John, I agree that allowing government to regulate so much of our lives can become a problem. I think a government that suggests good health, and creates incentives for it's employees by reducing insurance costs is actually a good government. We all gave up some of our freedom after 9/11 because we believed that our government had our best interests at heart. This is similar, but without the threat of a terrorist attack. As a former sailor, I remember when I smoked with my shipmates. It was soon suggested that we quit. We didn't want to, but found it increasingly harder to find a smoke deck. In short, they got us to cut back by reducing the amount of places we were permitted to smoke. Then they offered smoking cessation classes. Of course, they saved on paying for the treatment of smoking related illnesses, while developing a healthier fleet of sailors. I see your point about your rights, but also think that the city should do what it can to save money, and ultimately the lives of it's employees. Hey, this sort of reminds me of the government saying kids have to get immunizations before they can go to school. It's for their own good.

KingJames
11
Points
KingJames 09/25/07 - 11:48 am
0
0
When Smokers Quit - 20

When Smokers Quit - 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. The temperature of your hands and feet increases to normal. 8 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. 24 hours after quitting: Your chance of a heart attack decreases. 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases up to 30%. 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection. 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's. 5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5-15 years after quitting. 10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decrease. 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker's.

GnipGnop
12744
Points
GnipGnop 09/25/07 - 12:11 pm
0
0
Well the way I see it. If

Well the way I see it. If cigarettes are so bad for you why not make them illegal? Oh that's right, then they couldn't make the billions off of the cigarette tax. Typical government greed at work federally and locally. I'm not a smoker but I surely don't want anyone telling me what activities I can enjoy in my own free time. Especially if they are legal. I ride a motorcycle and always wear a helmet (because I think it's a smart thing to do) but if Joe Blow wants to ride his motorcycle without a helmet I say let him. If I wanna skydive in my free time so what? When's the last time one of your friends got killed in a car wreck and when's the last time one died in a freak sky diving accident? Less government!!! That's what we really need. If you want to ban smoking on city property and in city vehicles I can agree with that, but ban a legal activity on an employee's own time? Sounds like the start of dictatorship to me!!

lj
0
Points
lj 09/25/07 - 12:21 pm
0
0
Mr. Bowles, "negotitaing."

Mr. Bowles, "negotitaing." Did you mean, negotiating? Blue Cross Blue Shield is going to come up with statistics & resolutions to reduce the costs in order to get the contract for our health insurance in 2008. 5% would be how much savings? As a smoker, we can do what the employee's at Club Car did when they band the smoking from their facility. (GO TO OUR CARS TO SMOKE.) It's funny how people are put in a category for such things as smoking & being over weight when yes, there are some that may cause higher costs but many who also reduce. I pay $2052.48 per year for insurance on myself + 1, I haven't used my insurance for the last couple of years on myself & only used it on my child because of the required school immmunization needed & then had to pay $30.00 on that visit. What is the standard procedure for our medical contract? How many other companies have quoted us for health insurance? Will we just do what they say to get 5% cheaper rates before seeing how much other medical insurance carrier's will charge us? I would bet that we have NOT got any other bids...that would be too logical.

lj
0
Points
lj 09/25/07 - 12:33 pm
0
0
Why can't we reduce the rates

Why can't we reduce the rates of our insurance, but increase the co-pays? That would make the most sense. If the copays were let's say $50 a visit maybe people wouldn't visit the doctor so frequently!

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 09/25/07 - 01:13 pm
0
0
I don't know what the

I don't know what the solution is, but I will avoid any restaurant that allows smoking. If any business establishment allows smoking at its entrances, I take my business elsewhere. I do not bathe and shampoo only to run a gauntlet of smoke clouds which immediately adhere to my hair, clothes and skin, not to mention triggering sneezes and coughs before I can even enter the establishment for dining or shopping. I also detest going to a restroom and coming out smelling like smoke. My employer at one time thought I smoked because it adhered to me when I would take my break and one of the co-workers had the same break time and was in a stall smoking. It makes me sick to my stomach, but I didn't realize unti lthen it was clinging to me and affecting my also non-smoking co-worker as well when I would return from the smoke-filled restroom. It seems as if the non-smoker ends up with more smoke in him and on him than the person actually smoking. And please smokers, stop dumping your cigarette ash out the windows of your cars, the whole world is NOT your ashtray!

big dog
1
Points
big dog 09/25/07 - 01:27 pm
0
0
Welcome Big Brother to the

Welcome Big Brother to the south,or is this his first cousin Big Bubba?The idea of infringing on personal rights in order to save money or improve health in the long run isn"worth it,personal freedom isn't just more important its everything.When people are educated to the dangers of cigarettes they can make an informed choice for better or worse.If the city wants to encouage employees to quit there should be a reward for quitting and not punishment for consequences that haven't happened yet.

crystalball
1
Points
crystalball 09/25/07 - 01:28 pm
0
0
Why are smoker's the ones to

Why are smoker's the ones to always be targeted? Alcohol kills more innocent people. So, why not stop the drinking like you have the smoking? Put a scale at entry door for commissioners and employees and if you are over weight you are out too?
When will the Commissioners see their job as making Augusta grow??????????

Back to Top
loading...
Search Augusta jobs