Certify Your Coverage
Learn about the tobacco and working spouse certifications and surcharges.
Learn about the tobacco and working spouse certifications and surcharges.
During your initial enrollment in USG healthcare coverage, as well as during each Open Enrollment period, you must certify whether you or your covered family members use tobacco. This includes you, your spouse, and any children age 18 or older who are also enrolled in USG healthcare coverage. You will be charged a monthly surcharge of $100 per enrolled family member who uses tobacco products.
“Tobacco user” refers to the use of tobacco products within the past three consecutive months but does not include religious or ceremonial use of tobacco. The term “tobacco products” refers to any tobacco product including:
When you certify your tobacco user or working spouse status, you are attesting that the information is true and correct to the best of your knowledge. USG expects employees to uphold the highest standards of intellectual honesty and integrity, in compliance with the USG Ethics policy. Therefore, you should respond honestly in regard to your status. If you knowingly and willfully make a false or fraudulent statement to the University System of Georgia regarding your insurance coverage, you may be subject to criminal prosecution.
During your initial enrollment and at each Open Enrollment, if you enroll in a USG healthcare plan, you must certify that neither you nor your dependents (age 18+) are tobacco users. Otherwise, each will default to a tobacco user status, and a surcharge will be added to your monthly premium.
The monthly tobacco surcharge is $100 per enrolled dependent (age 18+). Each month you will pay between $100 and $300 (or more in some cases) in additional tobacco surcharges, depending on how many people are covered by your USG healthcare plan. No refunds will be given.
You are required to certify by logging in to your account through the portal at oneusgconnect.usg.edu, click on My Benefits, or you can certify by calling the OneUSG Connect - Benefits Call Center at 1-844-587-4236 (1-844-5-USGBEN) during your enrollment period.
Note: You can update your status at any time during the year, but your surcharge will be removed prospectively, meaning the 1st of the month following month.
When you enroll as a new employee, you and your dependents will not default as tobacco users. However, you are expected to accurately certify whether or not you and your dependents (age 18+) are tobacco users.
However, during subsequent Open Enrollment periods, you and/or your dependents (age 18+) will default as tobacco users if you take no action to certify tobacco use.
As a benefits eligible new hire, if hired during or after Open Enrollment, you will receive two enrollment events to complete. The first will be your new hire benefit enrollment event and the second will be your open enrollment. Your tobacco and working status will not default in your new hire event.
USG Employees enrolled in a USG Healthcare plan are required to certify their tobacco user status for themselves and all covered dependents age 18 and older, annually during open enrollment. If you did not update your tobacco user status during Open Enrollment and therefore defaulted to a tobacco user, you have the opportunity to update this status online or by calling OneUSG Connect - Benefits at 1-844-587-4236.
If you are being charged for the tobacco user surcharge and believe that you are being charged in error, the first step is to update your status online or by calling OneUSG Connect-Benefits at 1-844-587-4236.
If you would like to request a refund of surcharges paid, you will need to file an appeal with OneUSG Connect - Benefits. You may request this appeal by calling 1-844-587-4236 or logging an issue through your OneUSG Connect-Benefits account.
Tobacco cessation programs are available at no cost to you and your dependents. Please contact these helpful resources for more information.
If you or your dependent’s tobacco user status changes at any time during the plan year while you are enrolled in a USG healthcare plan, and you and/or your dependent is tobacco-free for three months without completion of a cessation program, you should notify OneUSG Connect - Benefits to change status within 30 days. No refunds for surcharges applied prior to the status change will be given.
The University System of Georgia is providing coverage for over the counter (OTC) and prescription smoking cessation products. These include OTC nicotine gum, lozenges and patches as well as some prescription products like Chantix and Zyban. If you have a prescription written from a physician, prescription products may be covered under the USG healthcare plans at a $0 copay. Contact your physician to see if any of these items are right for you.
Change your certification status within 30 days of your status change by calling the OneUSG Connect - Benefits Call Center at 1-844-587-4236 (1-844-5 USGBEN).
During initial enrollment in USG healthcare coverage, as well as during each Open Enrollment period, you must certify whether or not your covered spouse has coverage available through an employer outside of USG. If so, and you decide to cover your spouse under a USG healthcare plan, a monthly working spouse surcharge of $100 will apply.
If you do not complete the working spouse certification during Open Enrollment and elect employee plus spouse healthcare coverage, you’ll automatically pay the $100 monthly surcharge. No refunds will be given.
Your spouse works for any employer other than the USG, has an offer of coverage from that employer, and that employer contributes towards the cost of the coverage. Non-USG employers include private sector organizations as well as other government agencies (i.e., State of Georgia, Department of Education, etc.).
If your spouse’s offer of coverage changes at any time during the year, please visit OneUSG Connect or call the OneUSG Connect - Benefits Call Center to initiate a qualifying life event and remove the working spouse surcharge. Supporting documents will be required to complete the change.
Across the country, healthcare costs are rising, and Georgia tracks closely with national healthcare trends. Overall, USG’s costs are increasing at a higher rate than in the past. In addition, spouses on average cost $100 per month more than employees. USG is adding the surcharge to spouses that have an option of subsidized coverage in their employer’s plan.
The working spouse surcharge applies ONLY if the spouse of a USG employee is working and has an offer of subsidized health insurance offered by his or her employer. Subsidized coverage means the employer contributes towards the cost of the coverage. The working spouse surcharge does not apply to retirees covered under a USG healthcare plan.
A working spouse surcharge is commonplace among private sector employers. One survey showed approximately 38% of respondents apply a working spouse surcharge if the spouse has access to coverage through another employer. It is utilized in other universities nationwide — see USC and Penn State, for example. It’s important to note the following:
This only affects working spouses who have the option of purchasing coverage through their employer.
Based on benchmarking and survey data, USG’s plan actuary estimated that this change may affect approximately 25% (or 4,800) of covered spouses (meaning they are employed and would have coverage offered through their employers).
Costs for dependent children are substantially lower than for employees and spouses.
An employee covering two or more children without a spouse can enroll in the “Employee + Child or Children” tier and pay less than they would today in the “Family” tier.
Proof of your spouse’s employment status will not be required. Employees will be required to certify that they are making a true statement. Penalties may apply for answering falsely when certifying.
If you cover your spouse under a USG healthcare plan, you will be required to complete the working spouse surcharge certification. If your spouse is disabled and not working, the working spouse surcharge would not apply.
If your spouse has Medicare and is working and receives an offer of coverage from that employer, you would be subject to the surcharge if you cover the spouse under the USG plan. If the spouse has Medicare and does not receive an offer of coverage from another employer plan, the surcharge would not apply.
COBRA is not considered an offer of coverage from an employer. The surcharge will not apply for spouses who are enrolled through COBRA.
If the spouse is self-employed and obtains individual coverage, the surcharge would not apply.