Anti-smoking advocates question Walker’s smoking surcharge - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Anti-smoking advocates question Walker’s smoking surcharge

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - People who work for the state and smoke might have to pay an additional $50 a month for health insurance.

It's a part of Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal.

His office reports health care costs for "people who use tobacco are estimated to be 30 to 35 percent higher than non-smokers."

"I would say the majority of employers have taken deliberate action to implement wellness programming at their work site. Or, they're working with their health plan to incorporate different kinds of incentives benefit into their health insurance product," said Sarah Havens, director of Gundersen Lutheran's Department of Community and Preventative Care Services.

Walker is treating the state like an employer, Havens said.

But the plan concerns some anti-smoking advocates.

Health First Wisconsin said they haven't seen evidence that a $50 dollar surcharge reduces tobacco use.

Paula Silha, health educator at the La Crosse County Health Department, wonders if the state will provide tobacco prevention and cessation programs, or fund medication to help smokers quit.

"For some people it may be the thing that tips the domino over for them and other people may dig their heels in even more because if they haven't quit already, they certainly need the support," Silha said."

The Wisconsin Department of Administration said this proposal could affect about 10 percent of state employees. But it's just a proposal. Details will be determined before it's reviewed by the Group Insurance Board.

The DOA said a smoking surcharge is not common. Records from 2010 show nine state charge higher premiums for smokers.

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