Preventive Care Services: How Are We Doing As Employers?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

On September 23, we hosted a webinar sponsored by Pfizer.  The speaker was Sue Heineman, PharmD, BCPS, Director of Medical Affairs at Pfizer’s Global Innovative Pharma Business Unit.

We opened the webinar sharing the preliminary findings of a The Florida Alliance/Pfizer survey regarding employer knowledge of required covered benefits under the Affordable Care Act.  The survey found a majority of employers are covering immunizations fully and most cover preventive services.  However, a majority of employers isn’t enough.  We need to have 100% of employers covering all ACA requirements. This includes tobacco cessation intervention, the topic of our most recent The Florida Alliance webinar.

Dr. Heineman shared that smoking may be responsible for 60,000 to 120,000 more deaths than the 480,000 estimated by the Surgeon General each year.  While disturbing, those deaths are just part of the story.

Smoking is costly for employers.  Did you know that each smoking employee costs their employer approximately $6,000 more per year than a non-smoking employee?  These costs come in the way of additional health care needs (and absenteeism tied to those needs), as well as time lost due to smoking breaks during work hours.  The average annual absence by smokers is 6.7 days per year, versus 4.4 days for nonsmokers.  Additionally, the time taken during work hours to smoke amounted to 3.25 weeks of nonproductive time per smoking employee.

It is important for employers to know that smoking cessation programs and products, including counseling and medication, are covered under the ACA and fall under Mental Health parity.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cessation treatments are the single most effective health insurance benefit that can be provided to plan participants. 

Since 2014, health plans have enhanced smoking cessation coverage and that investment is paying off.  For every plan participant or dependent who quits smoking, an employer recognizes a savings of about $210 in annual health care premiums. 

In the past year, of the 69% of smokers that admitted they “want to quit,” 50% made a solid attempt to do just that.  However, only 4-7% of quit attempts are successful when left unaided.  Under a physician’s assistance, the odds of success double. 

As a side note, letting your employees know that their health plan premiums can increase if they are smokers may be an eye opener (increases for smokers are allowed through ACA).  Perhaps it will be the fact that helps them make that ever-important decision to finally quit.  

If we are to help employees become nonsmokers, employers must be aggressive in promoting the availability of cessation programs.  Pfizer provides a program that employers can private label and use to promote smoking cessation.  Additional information about ACA coverage is available to Florida employers at  If you need more information about Pfizer’s smoking cessation programs, please contact us directly through out website at

And don’t forget, at The Florida Alliance, we regularly offer low-cost webinars and in-person meetings on a myriad of helpful health care topics geared toward Florida employers and benefits managers.  Keep up to date at


Karen van Caulil 10/4/2015

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