The Arizona Republic yesterday got the scoop that several Maricopa County employees are getting fussy over having to submit to saliva swabs for nicotine analysis to prove that they don't use tobacco products in order to be eligible for lower insurance premiums than non-tobbacco using employees.
According the Republic, the difference in premiums between smokers and non-smokers is about $480 per year.
See the Republic's article here.
The move is part of a trend, the Republic claims, to create an incentive for employees to live healthier lifestyles, although, while the practice is more common in the private sector, Maricopa County is among the first public-sector workplaces to implement such a policy.
The county is in the process of trying to trim some of its health care costs for employees, but some workers feel it's an invasion of their privacy, and the information taken from the swabs could be used to get other information about employees.
Currently, to qualify for the non-smoker premium rate, all employees need to do is check a box saying they don't use tobacco products, which is real easy to do, especially if the employee's a smoker who wants the lower rate.
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In other words, the county is trying to save money on health care costs for employees by asking workers to prove that they aren't smokers in order to qualify for the lower rate. In turn, requiring employees to prove they don't smoke could encourage people to quit -- which could
also save the county money on health care costs. But it's still a little nanny-state-ish, if you ask us.
We want to know what you think: is asking county employees to prove they don't use tobacco via-a cheek swab an invasion of privacy?
Cast your vote below: