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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 7:24 pm

OK=Let's start the list:Everything that's bad for your body.....Prescription drugs, alcohol, fast food, motorcycles, illegal aliens.....
Where would you like to stop because every year they will find a way to raise your premiums to cover their overbuilt new hospitals and facilities.

Police Officer
January 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Hey, I am a non-smoker but isn't the President a smoker? Maybe they should remove him from office and fire him for smoking.

Health Care worker
January 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Insurance companies have been discriminating for years. I'm in the process of applying for a life insurance policy. It's unbelievable how many health questions they ask, especially pertaining to family history. It's none of their business. Charge everyone the same. Everyone has something in the family. The truth is, if you live, you'll also develop a health problem of one sort or another, despite how well you take care of yourself.

We have environmental pollution, work exposures, pesticides in the food, among a dozen other broad categories of health damaging chemicals caused by industry. Guess who pays the bill for their pollution and cancer causing substances? That's right. Everyone. Insurance companies are finding a way to charge anyone who comes down with cancer in their family from these more money. If you have diabetes in your family - you guessed it. Higher premiums. This form of discrimination is illegal, but they've somehow managed to slither out of the rules by crying "Profits will be harmed!"

Who cares about profits when lives are destroyed in the process? This country is so short-sighted and greedy, it's disgusting.

January 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Unbelievable that the "system" isn't called outright communism yet. How about hiking the rates up on people who drink and cause thousands of deaths every year. To "SPN", we don't have to work in the medical field to see our rights are being taken every day. Where does it stop. Frankly, the medical field is as crooked as lawyers. I'm sick of paying 5 times the amount that's probabaly the actual cost so I can pay the bill for the people who don't pay their medical bills! I'm sick of paying for people to have health insurance, housing, food, and even free cell phones that just choose to not work and pay for it on their own. And I'm sorry but, no, all others are not secondary to something else. That's a far stretch. Insurance companies, lawyers, judges, the entire government all tell us how to live our lives, how about all of us out there stand together and take back our country and the freedoms we USED to have. Am I really the only one that sees it this way....I know I'm not.
Technically, this could cause a discrimination law suit.

Health Care worker
January 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Clearly, SPN, you don't have an educated position in the health care field, so maybe time to step down off your high horse. If you did, you'd be informed that smoking is often related to depression, caused by a brain chemical imbalance, hence, a medical condition. Smokers are simply self-medicating an imbalance that was already present and that's their tool to maintaining function in a fast-paced environment. Nicotine has therapeutic actions on the brain. Smokers have simply found this out and become dependent on that due to the lack of other available options.

All addictions are diseases. Smoking is no exception, no matter how much it may disgust you.

Since smokers will be paying higher premiums to cover the costs of medical care (which I find those numbers to seem highly inflated), the states can immediately drop their tobacco taxes.

January 31, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Maggie said "Pregnancy is not a health condition that harms others...". How about all of the young girls that get pregnant and whose children I have to support through my taxes? That doesn't hurt anyone, huh?

Anti-Smoking Zealot - well, you're just a frustrated idiot!

I think that obese people are using more than their fair share of oxygen. As a smoker, I need all the oxygen I can get. Raise my premiums - raise theirs, too!

January 31, 2013 at 6:36 pm

If we are going to start charging people extra for smoking then how about those people who eat fast food, we know what's in those products, yet people eat them everyday...or how about the person who sits in traffic all day and breathes in all the carbon monoxide from the cars...Why do smokers always get punished??? I am a non-smoker, but do believe people have a right to live there life, and lets face it, insurance companies are not going broke. They have just found another way to charge more money. Just wait and see, pretty soon they'll be charging you for what you do(drinking alcohol, eating sweets, going to McDonalds) or an illness you have. I firmly believe do onto others as you would have done to you

Ruth Emery
January 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm

The high taxes put on the cost of cigarettes,cigars, is suppose
to go for medical treatment of the causing conditions. Where is that money going???

January 31, 2013 at 6:18 pm

It should be done on an individual basis. If a person takes care of themself they will be less of a burden on the health care money paid out by employers.I am shocked that people still smoke.

January 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Clearly none of you work in the health field. Smokers do harm to themselves, just like every body else does - sure. However, it is increasingly difficult to find ways to treat smokers, due to the types of illnesses they come down with along with the fact that they refuse to quit smoking, and therefore limiting even further the amount of medications that can be prescribed to treat said illnesses. Obesity is not always self inflicted, and often times isn't. It can be due to any number of things, including hypothyroidism which is a conditions someone is born with - next you'll be saying that mentally ill children require more medical attention and therefore should have to pay more for insurance. Smokers I'm all for, because most other things are diseases - alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, etc. are all (usually) secondary to something else, including mental instability. Although everyone falls short in some areas - smoking is a willful harmful act against not only yourself, but increases the health risks of everyone around you.