Tribune's smoking fee

Here's another example of why companies have no business dealing with peopleís health care coverage. Employees who smoke (and/or family members who smoke and are covered by Tribune insurance) will have to fork over a $100 surcharge each month. The new fees, to be assessed beginning next year, are an effort to offset higher insurance premiums and promote workers health. "We pay the lion's share of medical expenses and we have a responsibility to contain those costs," Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman told E&P. "We are and have been doing everything we can. It is a shared responsibility between employees and the company." At least two Teamster locals at the Baltimore Sun have filed grievances, claiming that the Chicago-based parent of the LAT (and a bunch of other papers) violates current contract language. In addition to the smoking charge, there will be a $75-a-month charge assessed to Tribune employees who place a spouse into the Tribune plan who could be covered under their own employment plan. Nice. Itís not that other companies havenít put the squeeze on their workers to shape up, but typically itís done by way of incentive (lower premiums for folks enrolling in wellness programs, for example). Michael Mayo, a columnist at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, is already on the warpath in his blog:

Naturally, this makes me wonder what other unhealthy sins will be surcharged in coming years. Will there be fees for alcohol use? Eating fast food? Having high cholesterol? Not adhering to proper weight/body mass guidelines? The other thing that gets me is that thereís no reward for not being a smoker. If the company imposed a surcharge on smokers and then gave a proportionate break to all the non-smokers I could maybe be a little more positive about the whole thing.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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