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Surcharges

Certify Your Coverage

Learn about the tobacco and working spouse certifications and surcharges. 

Tobacco Surcharge

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:

  • Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes
  • All forms of smokeless tobacco
  • Clove cigarettes
  • Any other smoking devices that use tobacco, such as hookahs, or simulate the use of tobacco, such as electronic cigarettes

Certifying your status

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. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do I need to certify?

    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.

  • How do I certify?

    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. 

  • I am a new employee. Will I automatically have a tobacco user status if I choose a USG healthcare plan?

    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. 

  • If I’m a new hire who was hired during or after Open Enrollment, will I or my covered dependents be defaulted?

    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.  

  • What if I do not complete my tobacco user certification during Open Enrollment?

    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 contact OneUSG Connect - Benefits by February 15 of the next year, you will receive a full refund of your tobacco user surcharges for January and February.
    • If you contact OneUSG Connect - Benefits after February 15, you may still update your tobacco user status at any time during the year. Your change will go into effect on the first of the following month the date you make the change.
  • What if I updated my tobacco user certification during Open Enrollment and I am being charged?

    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 contact OneUSG Connect - Benefits by February 15 of the next year, you will receive a full refund of your tobacco user surcharges for January and February.
    • If you contact OneUSG Connect - Benefits after February 15, you may still update your tobacco user status at any time during the year. Your change will go into effect on the first of the following month the date you make the change.

    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. 

  • How do I get help if I want to quit using tobacco?

    Tobacco cessation programs are available at no cost to you and your dependents. Please contact these helpful resources for more information.

    • Georgia Tobacco Quit Line: 1-877-270-7867
    • Kaiser Permanente: 1-866-862-4295
  • What if I quit or someone I cover quits using tobacco products without completion of a cessation program?

    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.

  • Do our USG healthcare plans cover prescription drugs that can help me quit using tobacco?

    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.

  • What if I start using tobacco products again after certifying as a non-tobacco user?

    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).

Working Spouse Surcharge

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.

When the surcharge will and will not apply

Working spouse surcharge will apply if:

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.).

Working spouse surcharge will not apply if:

  • You are a retiree covered under a USG healthcare plan.
  • Your spouse works for USG.
  • Your spouse is covered under COBRA.
  • Your spouse is eligible and/or enrolled in Medicare or Tricare and does not receive an offer of subsidized coverage through another employer.
  • Your spouse is self-employed, regardless of whether your spouse offers insurance to his or her employees.
  • Your spouse is a part-time employee and has NO access to health coverage.
  • Your spouse has insurance available through his or her own employer, but the employer makes NO contribution toward the cost of the insurance.
  • Your spouse is not employed.

Status changes

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.

Frequently Asked Questions