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    "The house absolutely glows with a new-found beauty. Tom is a genius in his ability to coordinate the work done to my home. In between many raindrops, he managed to get the painting done in a few days and have Mike, the roofer, and his crew tear off and replace the shingles and wood in two days time. And even though I'm on the west side, Tom was able to catch me before I left for work around 8:00 a.m. Your company has really boosted the resale value of my house. I plan to engage you again for interior work in the coming years. Thank you for a job well done!"

    Steven G.
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  • Smokers Beware…Your Insurance Is Going Up

    [caption id="attachment_4726" align="alignleft" width="172" caption="Smokers In The Workplace"]company[/caption]

    Reed Abelson of The New York Times discusses how more and more companies are increasing health insurance for their employees who maintain unhealthy lifestyles, like overeating and smoking. Abelson explains further in his article The Smokers’ Surcharge:

    More and more employers are demanding that workers who smoke, are overweight or have high cholesterol shoulder a greater share of their health care costs, a shift toward penalizing employees with unhealthy lifestyles rather than rewarding good habits.

    Policies that impose financial penalties on employees have doubled in the last two years to 19 percent of 248 major American employers recently surveyed. Next year, Towers Watson, the benefits consultant that conducted the survey, said the practice — among employers with at least 1,000 workers — was expected to double again.

    In addition, another survey released on Wednesday by Mercer, which advises companies, showed that about a third of employers with 500 or more workers were trying to coax them into wellness programs by offering financial incentives, like discounts on their insurance. So far, companies including Home Depot, PepsiCo, Safeway, Lowe’s and General Mills have defended decisions to seek higher premiums from some workers, like Wal-Mart’s recent addition of a $2,000-a-year surcharge for some smokers. Many point to the higher health care costs associated with smoking or obesity. Some even describe the charges and discounts as a “more stick, less carrot” approach to get workers to take more responsibility for their well-being. No matter the characterizations, it means that smokers and others pay more than co-workers who meet a company’s health goals.

    But some benefits specialists and health experts say programs billed as incentives for wellness, by offering discounted health insurance, can become punitive for people who suffer from health problems that are not completely under their control. Nicotine addiction, for example, may impede smokers from quitting, and severe obesity may not be easily overcome.

    Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association were among groups that warned federal officials about giving companies too much latitude. They argued in a letter sent in March that the leeway afforded employers could provide “a back door” to policies that discriminate against unhealthy workers.

    Kristin M. Madison, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, said, “People are definitely worried that programs will be used to drive away employees or potential employees who are unhealthy.”

    Current regulations allow companies to require workers who fail to meet specific standards to pay up to 20 percent of their insurance costs. The federal health care law raises that amount to 30 percent in 2014 and, potentially, to as much as half the cost of a policy.

    When Wal-Mart Stores, the nation’s largest employer, recently sought the higher payments from some smokers, its decision was considered unusual, according to benefits experts. The amount, reaching $2,000 more than for nonsmokers, was much higher than surcharges of a few hundred dollars a year imposed by other employers on their smoking workers.

    Read more at The New York Times

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