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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Of the 100 counties in North Carolina, Columbus County has been recognized as the unhealthiest. A cost-saving measure by the county could reward county employees for living a healthier lifestyle.

With more than 500 employees, county government is one of the largest employers in Columbus County. To save money the county recently switched healthcare providers, but County Manager Bill Clark says the premiums still carry an incredible cost.

“It’s a big expense,” he said. “This year it’s going to be about $7,000 per employee, so that’s what? $3.6 million out of a $52 million budget.”

To help trim the fat the county commission is considering adding a wellness clause to its health insurance plan. Workers who smoke or who are overweight would have to pay extra than those who live a healthier lifestyle.

“From a business standpoint, I think if you smoke, and someone else don’t smoke, and that causes your coverage to be a little bit more, I feel like the employees should compensate some of that cost,” County Commissioner Edwin Russ said.

If the proposed wellness option is approved, county leaders say that it would not only save taxpayers money, but it would also go a long way to improving Columbus Ccounty’s standing as the unhealthiest county in the state.

“It’s something that we all have to work on together as a county,” Clark said. “The county can’t fix it, the hospital can’t fix it, the health department can’t fix it. It’s something that we all have to come together to work on. We’re all responsible, and we all have to be responsible for our own health.”

County leaders say if they move forward with the wellness option, they would provide healthcare coaching to help employees meet benchmarks.

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11 Comments on "Higher premiums for overweight, smoking workers could help Columbus Co. trim fat"

2015 years 10 months ago

…people that eat large King Macks full of mercury. People that swim in water over their heads, people that speed in their cars, people that text while driving, people that skydive, people that ride motorcycles, bald headed people on a sunny day, short people, people that pump their own gasoline. These are ALL risky scenarios. Where does it stop?

2015 years 10 months ago

I am all for being healthy. I also realize that obesity and smoking will affect a person’s health. So will alcohol and drugs.

But let’s face the real facts. There are people overweight due to genes they have inherited. I know of two sisters who have the same lifestyles as for eating habits, one is obese…the other is considered underweight. To become a “healthy size” the overweight sister would probably have to eat lettuce the rest of her life to obtain the weight needed to acheive this “less expensive” health insurance.

As for smoking….I have never smoked, but I do know of an 89 year old lady that has smoked since she was 15. It hasn’t killed her, but I know that it has contributed to the death of some people.

If smoking is going to be used as a reason to not get the “less expensive” insurance, drinking alcohol or using drugs should be added to the list as well. I am sure the drinker’s liver, the drug user’s brain, and the smoker’s lungs would contribute equally to a person’s health.

Bottom line…this plan should be re-vamped to include drinkers and drug users as well as smokers and obese people.

Guest Vader
2015 years 10 months ago

I am with you 100%. Excessive use of alcohol should also be a factor in paying higher insurance rates. Those who smoke and are overweight certainly contribute to higher insurance rates, so like a poor driver, should pay more for coverage.

Guest 2012
2015 years 10 months ago

No amount of money can buy your health back. I want my health. What the medical profession and insurance companies do thereafter is up to them.

Folk, let’s take this seriously. I mean with utmost sincerity. We will not be back at square one, according to our glorious leader in the Oval Office (which he almost never uses).

The county leaders have a great plan. Take advantage of it and regain that high school student look. Seriously, it can be done with a minimum of effort.

Our president has told us that we can keep the same doctors and it won’t cost a dime more to with the Affordable Care Act. Is he a liar? Is Nancy Pelosi a liar? Insurance premiums will not go up, according to the writers of Obamacare? Surely they wouldn’t lie to the American people. Or would they? Only time will tell. Give the county program a chance. We know it will work if we do our part.

Guest Reply
2015 years 10 months ago

If everyone in this world were of perfect weight for their height…didn’t smoke…didn’t drink…ate perfect foods…etc., then doctor visits would be shaved down and people have to go less…doctors would raise their rates to still make a living to what they are accustomed to…then the insurance companies would raise copay + rates to compensate the doctors rate increase…then you are right back to square #1…higher insurance rates “Just Because”….they can!

Slim Jim
2015 years 10 months ago

This is great news. These biggest losers should be charged more for causing our healthcare costs to go up due to their lazy lifestyle. Maybe this will give them the kick in the gut they need to get their
fata**es off the couch and take better care of themselves.

2015 years 10 months ago

Slim Jim…you must have been hiding under a rock for the last half century. There are lots of overweight people who have held permanent jobs for years. Their weight has not hindered them from doing their work…they don’t lay on the couch all day. There are lots of perfectly slim people who have high blood pressure and diabetes. There also have been lots of slim people who die of heart attacks. I have a family member that is 84 and has had 3 heart attacks, has high blood pressure, worked all her life, and has never weighed over 135 lbs. This person had a brother who was 6’4″ and weighed 180 lbs. and died of heart attack at age 52.

What is your suggestion for people who are born with crooked teeth? How can they correct their teeth to keep dental insurance from sky rocketing?

Congratulations for having a perfect body…I am sure you will be healthy until the day you leave this earth!

2015 years 10 months ago

As a health coach I know that many people really want to BE healthy but they simply don’t know how to make it fit into their everyday lives. I am grateful for the skills to be able to assist people in finding ways to exchange their well established behaviors for healthier ones. I think it is a wonderful option to offer health coaching to those who would like to make the change to a healthier lifestyle. Not only would it benefit the individual and their family but it would benefit the community as well.

Guest 2012
2015 years 10 months ago

Whether genes are factor or not, obesity is a killer. Diabetes, heart trouble, arthritis, lots of other troubles are caused by being overweight. Folks, this is not government interference. It is a life saving gesture. When a person’s health is gone, it is gone. Obesity can be cured by the person who is overweight. At one time, I was 50% overweight per the actuarial charts. I was borderline diabetic and had lipid problems. Due to my body frame, I didn’t look vastly overweight but the scales told me otherwise.

I took my doctor’s advise and lost down to the actuarial tables weight. It didn’t take long, less than a year. Just think, one pound a week equals 52 pounds a year. I used the high protein program. I won’t name it on this site but it calls for protein and no starches. Now, I don’t care for starches and don’t crave them. The fat will actually melt off slowly but surely

I quit smoking 40 years ago. I couldn’t afford it and cigarettes were less than a $1.00 a pack back then. I never took to alcohol so I didn’t have to quit that. BTW, I retired from a county job but took it upon myself to lose the weight after my doctor told me to lose it or get ready for a life as a diabetic.

I am a Columbus County native and love that the leaders are taking the lead in promoting a better health program. It is not hard to eat healthy and I doubt that anyone can afford to smoke cigarettes nowadays even at the prices that I see posted outside stores.

Please give the health program a chance. You will thank yourself in your later years when your health is most important. No, I am not a county commissioner but I appreciate what they are trying to do. It takes guts to propose such a program. It will save you and the county money and enhance your health. Or be stubborn and complain when your health declines, as it most surely will if you don’t take control of your habits of overeating and smoking.

Guest 777
2015 years 10 months ago

Why increase the premium for health insurance for smokers? It is really unfair you know. even though I guit I don’t agree with the punishment. Cigarettes are taxed already as punishment for those who have been addicted and supported farmers and our economy for years. So why not add additional 20 cent tax on every Big Mac, Mardees and Burger King fat laden Bacon and Cheexe double meat, kill me Heart attack burgers or Bacon egg and Cheeze biscuits or 4 piece Fried Chicken Dinners,What about Alcohol increase the TAXES. You need to do that and see if people would stop eating so many fast foods and let the TAXES go into an Affordable Health Care POT so everyone pays the same premium for future Health Care.

Stupid to single out smokers. It is an unfair target.

2015 years 10 months ago



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