Philadelphia Smokers Cough Up More For Benefits

The City of Philadelphia has ramped up its efforts to curb smoking with two major changes to its employee benefits programs. First, beginning January 1, 2015, all pharmacies in its Preferred Health Network (PHN) must be tobacco-free; employees who fill prescriptions at an out-of-network pharmacy will pay an additional copayment on top of the copayment for the medication. City employees and their spouses who have used tobacco in the previous year also will pay an additional $500 for health insurance, although the amount will be reduced if they complete an approved smoking cessation program by May 1, 2015.

CVS Caremark is both a pharmacy benefits administrator (PBA) and the second largest chain of pharmacies in the nation; only Walgreens is larger. The company announced in February 2014 that its pharmacies would no longer sell tobacco products. The PBA recently began to offer optional tobacco-free pharmacy networks as part of its benefit program. The City of Philadelphia is the first employer to adopt the option, which applies to non-union workers.

Philadelphia’s Network

The City announced on Friday, October 24, 2014 that together with its pharmacy benefits administrator, CVS Caremark, it has recruited 135 independent pharmacies and the CVS, Target, and Wegmans chains to participate in the tobacco-free PHN. Covered employees and spouses who fill their prescriptions at an out-of-network pharmacy will make a copayment of $15 per prescription in addition to the copayment for the drugs. Mayor Michael A. Nutter noted that the PHN and benefit changes were part of a multifaceted effort called “Get Healthy Philly.” Other components include coverage of smoking cessation medications and a new $2 per pack tax on cigarettes.