Wisconsin state workers who smoke would have to pay $50 more per month for health insurance under a Gov. Scott Walker proposal that has won approval by the Legislature’s budget committee.
The Joint Finance Committee on voted 13-3 to approve the fee.
Twelve other states currently impose similar fees but anti-smoking groups including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association oppose them because they argue they are not effective in reducing tobacco use.
Walker’s administration says the fee is necessary because it estimates health care costs for tobacco users are about 35 percent higher than those who don’t.
Workers could face a surcharge if they are caught lying about their tobacco use, but they could not lose their insurance coverage as originally proposed.
The Legislature’s budget committee has approved creating a high-deductible health insurance plan with health savings accounts for government workers in Wisconsin.
The provision included in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget was approved by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee.
Before the new plan is created, an actuarial study must be completed to ensure creating the program does not increase overall health insurance costs.
The new health insurance option would be available for state and local government workers starting in 2015.
Contributions to health savings accounts are tax-free and the money can be tapped for health-related expenses by the employee.
They and high-deductible health insurance plans are viewed by some as ways to control the growth in health care costs by providing financial incentives for covered people to make cost-effective options.