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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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January 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Debbie and TH,
Thank you, couldn't have said that any better myself. I'm an ex-smoker and I know fully well how difficult it is to quit.

dale smith
January 31, 2013 at 3:42 pm

smoking stinks

Roger Jennings
January 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Just another way to penalize you for the way you live. It doesn't cost employers anymore than anyone else.

January 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I find it interesting that it comes down which lobbying group wins, Insurance or Tobacco. Cause the issue certainly has nothing to do with health but sadly only with money. In this case I predict Insurance because Tobacco can always peddle their wares overseas to developing countries like China.

January 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I am sick and tired of ins. companies and their corporate greed. there was a news tidbit the other day that said blue cross had a surplus fund of 1 billion dollars! this need for more profit and the greed is destroying us all. while we the people sit and argue over rep. vs. demo. once the smokers are cleared out who's next? my guess is the obese and the strain that they put on healthcare. the rising costs of healthcare should be contributed to corporate greed and we as a people should call for an immediate ban on corporations. how much longer do we continue down this path where money matters more than anything including people?

January 31, 2013 at 2:00 pm

According to what I read about the subject is it hasn't gone though yet. Also if your on an employer plan thy cant raise it as long as you participate in a smoking cessation program such as can be done online like contently in the morning with your cup coffee and cigarettes.

January 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I'm not a smoker and never have been but I know several and it's not easy to quit (interesting some are getting rich off the sale of tobacco while the poorest get slammed). I guess next on the list will be candy bar and energy drink junkies, beer drinkers, sports (softball/baseball, surfing, vollyball, sky diving, bike riding, rock climbing, etc.) Might be a good idea to put a penality on the growing number of people who drive like idiots (and think they are either good drivers or cool, use cell phones, read brush hair, paint nails and others) causing or involved in accidents. If we eliminate all the problems then we could eliminate insurance all together. Oops, the insurance company doesn't want that either. Someone has to pay the CEO's salaries and their perks. It all comes down to greed. I was taught you fix problems by fixing it at the source not the symptoms. As long as we allow folks to produce and sell junk and hiring actors and atheletes to market it and then penalize the end user must be part of the plan to make the CEO's richer.

January 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm

The only smokers that I feel sorry for are the ones who did not vote for Obama. A lot of people who didn't vote for Obama remember
the Health Care debacle that the Clinton's tried to ram through.

As long as you keep putting the tax and spent party (Democrat) in office you will continue to pay higher taxes to help cover their wayward spending.

January 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Going back a little in time, I have worked since I was 14 years old, I have paid my taxes, raised my family, I used to smoke when I was younger, I have quit, I don’t down anyone who smokes because I know just how hard it’s been for me to quit and to stay quit. I have had three Cancers, all of which are not from smoking, the last two cancers were Bladder and Breast cancer, When I had bladder cancer my Doctor had mentioned that artificial sweeteners were the main cause of this type of cancer, and if I was drinking diet sodas, etc. That I should stop, and yes I was, not because I was over weight I did not like the taste of sugar drinks, so do we also condemn people who drink or eat things with sweet and low sugars? Or raise their health Insurance as well, Then there was my Breast cancer, that was caused by hormonal therapy replacement, a pill that I was taking to help with the symptoms from the first cancer that I had at age 27 which led to a total Hysterectomy, so do we raise their insurances if they use hormone replacement medication? Another thing do we condemned workers or non-workers who have eye problems because they sit in front of a computer all day which causes health issues with the eye, or even carpel tunnel, that causes problems as well. Oh yes and then the cell phone, that they say causes brain tumors so do we raise premiums on people who uses cell phones, my goodness if we look at the whole picture, everything we do can cause a health problem, it is not all from just smoking, and yes I do know that smoking can contribute to health issues as well. Oh before I go, one more thing to add to the hype of Insurance is Auto insurance, as you age they go up on you, even if you never had an ticket or accident, I know firsthand, because its happened to me since I’ve turned 50 it has gone up They tell me it’s because of my age bracket, so I guess they consider me a high risk driver, yet I have never had a ticket or accident my whole life.

And as far as disability, yes I had to retire at the age 52 not because I wanted to, but because I now have an autoimmune system disease which affects me on a daily basis, so yes I get my social security disability and Medicare, which I pay $ 157.00 per month for and all my co-pays as well each month, so as you can see I don’t get Medicare for free, and my social security is based on my work history, so not everyone gets this for free, If you are $1 over the poverty limit then you will pay a premium.
And also medicare does not cover everything, I also pay for supplement insurance to help but it also comes with a cost of co-pays as well, just like any health Ins. medicare does not pay for everything

January 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm

ok here's my 'Lungs from pack a day smokers Safe for Transplant, Study Finds.' Dr Ramsey Hachem pulmonologist Barnes-Jewish Hospital St Louis. "Only about 20% of smokers actually develop the worst effects of smoking, noted Hachem." "..the majority of people who smoke do not have lung disease."