AUSTIN, TX–Leading business and health care organizations gathered at the State Capitol today to launch the Texas Coalition for Worksite Wellness’ “Call for Coverage and Treatment” campaign, urging Texas-based businesses to provide employees with comprehensive smoking cessation benefits. The goal is to increase the number of Texas workers with comprehensive smoking cessation coverage by an additional 100,000 within the next year.
“Our Call for Coverage and Treatment is focused on improving the health of the Texas workforce and encouraging smart investments in employee health care benefits that can pay real dividends, both in lives saved and hard dollar costs,” said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business and director of the Texas Coalition for Worksite Wellness.
The coalition’s Call for Coverage and Treatment initiative encourages businesses to adopt programs or benefits based on CDC-recommended guidelines. The Call for Coverage and Treatment initiative not only asks employers to provide comprehensive smoking cessation coverage, but also actively promote the availability amongst their employees. Comprehensive smoking cessation coverage programs would include:
- At least four, 30 minute counseling sessions;
- Coverage for all FDA-approved prescription treatments and over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies; and
- Counseling and medication for at least two smoking cessation attempts per year – all with low or no co-pays or deductibles.
To assist their efforts, companies may obtain toolkits on how to build a smoking cessation program or benefits, as well as promotional posters, by visiting www.txworksitewellness.org. Physicians will also find toolkit resources on the Web site aimed at helping encourage patients to quit smoking.
“The Texas Coalition for Worksite Wellness’ Call for Coverage is a common-sense approach to improving the health and productivity of the Texas workforce,” said Hammond. “Employers like USAA and H-E-B are already leading the charge, and the State of Texas will join them this fall when state employees can take advantage of smoking cessation benefits through their health plans. It’s time for more Texas businesses to hear the call and respond.”
H-E-B offers comprehensive smoking cessation benefits for their partners as part of an overall health care benefits strategy aimed at improving health, increasing productivity and saving health care dollars.
“Smoking is a significant health care cost driver for businesses,” said Leslie Lockett, director of public affairs for H-E-B. “The decision to offer smoking cessation benefits makes good bottom line business sense, and it’s the right thing to do for the health and well being of our partners and their families, too. We hope other Texas-based businesses will join us and the Coalition in this call for coverage.”
The State of Texas also has realized benefits of helping state employees quit smoking for good. Although the statewide smoking ban did not pass, legislators made it possible for the Employee Retirement System to provide members with smoking cessation coverage beginning Sept. 1, 2009.
“Helping state employees quit smoking is good for employees and good for Texas taxpayers,” Andy Homer, government relations director for the Texas Public Employee Association said. “The ERS group benefit plan is the largest non-federal health plan in Texas. The smoking cessation benefit provided to our members during the recent legislative session will lower health care costs over time and employees who quit smoking are more productive. This truly is a benefit for all Texans.”
The Texas Coalition for Worksite Wellness considers smoking cessation benefits to be a low-cost, high-impact solution to rising health care costs, according to Hammond.
According to the National Business Group on Health, failing to help people quit smoking takes an economic toll – over $180 billion every year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that smoking costs employers more than $1,600 in excess medical expenses per smoker per year, plus an additional $1,760 in health-related productivity losses per smoking employee per year.
“The Call for Coverage effort is working to clear the air and improve the health of the Texas workforce,” said Jeff Knisley, Texas government relations director for the American Lung Association of the Central States. “Whether you’re a smoker or a non-smoker, we all deserve a smoke-free workplace and smokers deserve access to the tools and proven treatments to help them quit.”
Key business leaders and advocates on hand to endorse the initiative included H-E-B, Texas Association of Business, Texas Academy of Family Physicians, Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute, Texas Public Employees Association, Employee Retirement System of Texas and American Lung Association of Central States.