ERS tobacco policy updated for e-cigarettes

ERS tobacco policy updated for e-cigarettes

June 8, 2020
hands holding vape pen and cigarettesStarting September 1, all participants in Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health plans who use electronic cigarettes and vaping products must certify as tobacco users and pay the tobacco user premium.

The Employees Retirement System of Texas Board of Trustees voted in March to update ERS’ tobacco policy to include e-cigarettes and vaping products. The revised policy defines tobacco products as any type of tobacco, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, dip and all e-cigarettes or vaping products. Vaping products that do not contain tobacco or nicotine also are considered tobacco products. 
Health plan participants who use e-cigarettes and vaping products must certify as tobacco users.
The new definition aligns with the Texas Health and Safety Code, as well as policies by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A tobacco user is a person who has used any tobacco product (as defined in the ERS policy) five or more times in the past three consecutive months. 

Health plan participants (retirees and dependents) who are not enrolled in Medicare and need to certify as a tobacco user because of the change should do so during their Summer Enrollment phase. Retirees who are eligible for Medicare and participate in Fall Enrollment should change their status, if necessary, anytime between August 1 and August 31.

How to certify

To certify tobacco use or change certification status, log in to your ERS OnLine account and click the Tobacco User Certification link. You can also access a Tobacco User Certification form online or call ERS toll-free at (877) 275-4377. Failure to appropriately certify tobacco use can result in a fraud investigation, financial penalties and termination from the GBP health plans.

Resources to kick the tobacco habit

All GBP health plans cover some type of tobacco cessation products or resources. Find out what’s available to you by contacting your health plan or visiting its website. (See a list of plan websites.) ERS also offers Choose to Quit, a program in which participants and their health care provider develop an individualized plan to limit or end their use of tobacco products.

For more information about ERS’tobacco policy, tobacco user premium and Choose to Quit program, view Tobacco Policy FAQs