Insurance Blog

Finance Blogs » Insurance Blog » Health insurance to burn smokers

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.

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus

Subscribe to Bankrate news letters today!

Bankrate wants to hear from you and encourages comments. We ask that you stay on topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, and illegal content. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to (but are not obligated to) edit or delete your comments. Please avoid posting private or confidential information, and also keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

By submitting a post, you agree to be bound by Bankrate's terms of use. Please refer to Bankrate's privacy policy for more information regarding Bankrate's privacy practices.
January 31, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I am with "Whats Next", this is a short step to Obese people, Diabetics, persons with family history of cancer, they are playing the game of "if they can not refuse you insurance they will price it out of reach"!!!!!!!!!!!

January 31, 2013 at 5:34 pm

10000 extra each year,I don't believe that.Not unless they are very old and have smoked for 50 yrs.Then they would not be working.The Insurance co. will use any excuse to raise the rates and the Govt wants to ban smoking and tell people what to eat so they go along with it.Itshard to control people so they will not be truthful when they apply for ins.And if they cant afford it they just wont buy it.

Forgot this one
January 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Reading all these very good arguments I think its the Smoking obese pregnant woman that should have the increased premium...

January 31, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Pregnancy is not a health condition that harms others like smoking is. Many companies ALREADY charge an extra charge for prenatal insurance, and many women have to pay for it for at least a YEAR before they even become pregnant.

I see no reason to punish women and punish something that ONLY women can do---- have babies. You want to live in a childless world, "Come On BS?" An evil thought.

Smoking hurts EVERYONE. Most of all those who have to live with the smoker. They are taking chances and using up more than their share of health care for a vice! Having children is not considered a vice in any moral person's book.

January 31, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Instead of raising the already far-too-high premiums on smokers, they should drop the premiums of non-smokers. Insurance companies always get it their way by making up new rules just to get higher premiums.

Anti-Smoking Zealot
January 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm

What a great idea. Smokers should pay more for insurance, lots more. Someone mentioned that obese people should pay more. I disagree and I am not obese. The difference between obese people and smokers is that smokers and obese people may hurt themselves, but being obese does not brutalize innocent human beings. That is what smokers do every time they light up anywhere near others. Smokers, based on my experience, are the most discourteous people I have ever met. Regarding the related posts ... 1) I hope smokers choke on new surcharges. 2) Working smokers have way more rights than they deserve already. 3) Health incentives are not unfair if one of the incentives is to reward non-smokers. Maybe a better idea would be to criminalize the use of the cigarette. It is the most vile legal product and has been so for decades.

What next?
January 31, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Well hell, let's just raise everyone 50% more. CurleyRed mentioned obese people. There are alcoholics, diabetics, etc. Everyone has something contributing to higher health costs. Why single out smokers? You know how many discriminative law suits that will create?

January 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm

What about all the obese people, they should be included also.

Come-On BS
January 31, 2013 at 3:46 pm

The arguement "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."--BS!! What about a women who gets pregnant? Are they going to have to pay more because of the expenses to have a baby? And who will pay for that...of course the non-pregnant people!!

January 31, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Coming soon, companies to only insure those living in a corporate approved plastic bubble.