Nondiscrimination in Health Care Plans Based on Smoking

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Currently, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows a health care plan to offer a reward to nonsmokers up to 20 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage under an employer-sponsored group health care plan. In 2014, the reward will be raised to 30 percent by the Affordable Care Act.

A rather obscure New Jersey statute – the “Smokers’ Rights Act” - provides that no employer shall (a) refuse to hire any person, or (b) discharge an employee, or (c) take any adverse action against an employee with respect to terms and conditions of employment because that person smokes or uses other tobacco products, "unless the employer has a rational basis for doing so which is reasonably related to the employment, including the responsibilities of the employee or

prospective employee."

However, the statute expressly does not preclude an employer-sponsored health care plan from requiring hire contributions to premiums from smokers.

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