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State Health Plan nixes spot-checks of sneaking smokers

Thousands of North Carolina state employees admitted they were smokers and signed up for a higher-priced health coverage under the threat of random testing to see if they were sneaking a butt.

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Cigarette smoking
RALEIGH, N.C. — Thousands of North Carolina state employees admitted they were smokers and signed up for a higher-priced health coverage under the threat of random testing to see if they were sneaking a butt.

But so many workers opted to admit their vice and stay in the higher-priced plan that administrators doubt they'll find many cheaters. Legislators and plan administrators this week dropped plans to test for smokers trying to beat the system.

State Health Plan Director Jack Walker told lawmakers that 20 percent of workers enrolled in the higher-priced plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which begins in July, compared with 6 percent in the current year.

Statistics show that about 15 percent of people covered by the State Health Plan are smokers, Walker said.

The State Health Plan covers nearly 670,000 public employees, retirees and their family members.

Starting in July, smokers will receive less generous coverage. Workers could opt for the more-generous coverage if they signed a statement that they don't smoke or entered a program to help them quit.

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