Beginning fall semester of 2010, a $50 per semester surcharge will be added to the university health insurance plan of students who smoke.
Students will need to fill out a form on myUM stating whether or not they are a smoker. Those who confirm that they are smokers, as well as those who do not fill out the form, will be charged the $50.
This will be the first year that students will be charged an additional fee for smoking. University of Miami staff and faculty have been paying a smoking surcharge since 1992.
Under staff and faculty’s 2010 medical plan, if they are a smoker, their monthly premium for medical coverage will be increased by $40, and if their spouse/domestic partner is a smoker, their monthly premium will be increased by $40 as well.Sophomore Shayla Malauulu is on the UM health insurance plan and is currently a smoker.
“I understand that it may be more expensive to cover smokers, but college students aren’t likely to get sick because we haven’t been smoking for long,” she said. “I’m already on my way to quitting and plan to be completely smoke-free by this fall.”
Jennifer S. Cohen, executive director of health plan administration for UM, said that statistics show how costly smoking can be.
“According to the American Cancer Society, smoking-related medical costs averaged more than $100 billion each year between 2000 and 2004,” Cohen said. “This translates to $2,247 in extra medical expenses for each adult smoker per year as of 2004. These additional expenses are for cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc.”
Sophomore Laura Costa is also a smoker, though she is not covered by the student health insurance. However, she believes the surcharge will ultimately be beneficial.
“I think it’s a good thing because if you’re on the school’s health insurance, you should understand that they’re just taking precautions in case something bad happens,” she said. “I think it’ll help people realize that they need to quit smoking.”
In filling out the insurance papers, students are on their honor to be honest about their smoking habits.
Lying, however, may have consequences.
“Students will be referred to the Dean of Students Office for suspected cases of dishonesty,” said Dr. Howard Anapol, director of student health services.
UM’s main campus is taking small steps toward becoming a smoke-free campus, following the example of the Miller School of Medicine campus, which just went completely smoke free on March 2.
The university also provides numerous resources to aid students who want to quit smoking and avoid the fine.
The “Be Smoke Free” program offers free “Quit Smoking Now” classes in the Medical and Gables wellness centers. The classes offer resources for smokers interested in kicking the habit.
Smoking Cessation Services is another option available to help students quit smoking.
Medical providers are available to help with smoking cessation for all students eligible to receive care at the Student Health Services and smoking cessation aids, including nicotine replacements and other medications.
These services and aids are free to students currently on the UnitedHealthCare Student Health Insurance plan.
Rebecca Zimmer may be contacted at email@example.com.