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Health insurance to burn smokers

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Posted: 10 am ET

If you're a smoker, this would be an excellent year to kick the habit.

One of the less contentious provisions of health care reform allows health insurance companies to jack the premiums on individual policyholders who smoke by up to 50 percent beginning next January.

Come Jan. 1, 2014, you can no longer be denied coverage because of your gender, weight, health or lifestyle under health care reform.

But if you don't give up smoking, your health insurance could get awfully expensive by this time next year. A 55-year-old smoker could be looking at a premium hike of $4,250 per year, while the smoker's penalty for a 60-year-old could approach $5,100, according to The Associated Press.

Unfair, you say? Consider this: According to a 2011 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, employees who smoke cost their employer's insurance plan more than $10,000 in additional expenses and more than $5,000 in extra premiums annually. Who's picking up that bill? You guessed it: nonsmoking co-workers.

Little wonder that a growing number of employers, especially in health care, are turning down job applicants who smoke and are imposing no-smoking policies inside and outside the office, despite laws in 29 states and the District of Columbia that prohibit discrimination against smokers.

In the big picture, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke causes 443,000 premature deaths and costs the nation $193 billion in health bills and lost productivity every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who picks up that bill? We all do, whether we smoke or not.

Younger smokers won't be hit as hard as older smokers by the coming insurance rate hikes under rules proposed last fall by President Barack Obama's administration. And the federal law does permit states to limit or change the smoking penalty as they see fit.

On the bright side, thanks to the broad expansion of preventive care services under the Affordable Care Act, it's pretty easy to find a smoking cessation program through your insurer or employer these days that won't cost you a dime out of pocket.

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E.F. Sosa
January 31, 2013 at 11:59 am

Can you give us a list of the different Health Compines that
are slated to increase our premiums; So that WE who refuse to quit - can maybe save a little money, by purchasing our coffins before hand.

"Thank You In Advance"

Dr. Ernesto F. Sosa

January 31, 2013 at 11:58 am

Sure how about if they're fair across the board & charge the same 50% more to everyone who is overweight?!? Overweight and a smoker 100% more!

January 31, 2013 at 11:53 am

kb, I'm sorry about your allergies, but like all others, you automatically blame the smokers. It just goes back to what I said earlier. I live in a large city in which proven statistics show that oil companies and manufactures produce 20,000 lbs of polutants a year into the air we breath and that is just one city. You don't think that might have something to do with your allergies? As far as your comparison to car accidents, well, I think you are off-base. If your driver were drunk, would he have to pay higher health insurance rates as a drinker? Of course not!

January 31, 2013 at 11:51 am

Smoking isn't illegal. I think if they are going to fine smokers what about alcoholics that destroy their livers. What about diabetics or obese individuals. This is ridiculous. Yeah we are being forced to quit. I think this is big brother telling us what to do. Insurance companies are out to gain big profits and this is their win and smoker individuals loss. I sure wish the insurance companies would provide funds for a group support group to quit smoking through a hospital or some health care provider. There's a wealth of info. out there to help people loose weight but not much for smokers. Will try to quit.

January 31, 2013 at 11:44 am

how about everyone take a physical and do urine and blood tests to weed out everyone to include drug abusers and alcoholics,and whatever vises people have in life and base their premiums on that info and then no one can complain about fairness in our society,this country is going rogue and lets not forget to increase premiums on obese people too,this should just about eliminate 80% of the people from getting affordable health care,i just wished i had voted democrate to get free health care,although i do not qualify as i work and make living for myself,but those of you who choose to sponge off the hard working and do nothing to contribute to your own self worth because it's just not fair that you chose to do nothing in life.

January 31, 2013 at 11:44 am

My only concern on this issue is the people who lie. How will you be control the many people you walk into to the doctors office and when asked "Do you smoke?" and answer no I do not smoke. It happens. I work in a hospital and people lie about smoking all the time. They walk right out to their vehicles and light up.

January 31, 2013 at 11:40 am

Thak you, Buddy!!! Sorry, but this is just B.S. According to a national study, cigarette smoke only contributes 2% of the polutants in our air. The insurance companies need to go after the other 98% true contributors, ie. oil companies, manufacturers, etc. And as far as quoting stats, I notice there are no other numbers for comparison. I'm sure if all causes of premature deaths were added to this study, the smokers' numbers would not be nearly so significant in comparison. I feel like a condemed felon! As it is now, the only place I'm allowed to smoke is in my own home or in my car. Now they want me to pay for all the non-smokers illnesses by jacking up my premiums? I don't think so.

January 31, 2013 at 11:37 am

THEY SHOULD PAY MORE. Their bad habits are their choice, i had to smell their smoke for years until the place i worked finally sent them outside, now I have allergy issues because of their 2nd hand smoke. no smoker I've met is considerate enough to care about the non smokers and I shouldn't have to pay for their health problems.

People that have accidents pay a higher premium on car insurance, why not the smokers?

January 31, 2013 at 11:34 am

Good maybethey won put their health and our health at risk anymore

January 31, 2013 at 11:04 am

I have been a smoker since I was 16 and now 60+. I have not had a full physical in 3 years, normal cholesterol, normal blood pressure, and smoke a pack a day. Now I have to pay more money to NOT see my doctor. If not for my wife, I would not worry about buying health insurance.