Northwest to up smoking worker insurance

Oct. 19, 2005 at 6:29 PM

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Northwest Airlines plans to charge workers who use tobacco more for their health insurance as well as workers whose partners or spouses smoke, a report said.

An Oct. 12 memorandum said the policy, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2006, will affect salaried and management employees, The (Minn.) Star Tribune reported.

The not-yet-determined surcharge would cover about 3,000 of the airline's 35,000 workers. However, the airline will press the change with union workers to reduce its costs, an airline spokesman said.

"These aren't new concepts," said Carolyn Pare, chief executive officer of Buyers Health Care Action Group, a coalition of major Minnesota employers.

"Typically, employers don't charge more. It's that they allow non-smokers better rates," Pare said, just as people with better driving records pay less for auto insurance.

Only employers who self-insure -- about one-third of those in Minnesota -- can charge workers different insurance rates, said Carolyn Jones of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

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