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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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February 02, 2013 at 7:42 pm

So how much are insurance companies hitting the drinkers,drug abusers, and over eaters for? Because I am picking up the cost for their health issues.

Earl Meyers
February 02, 2013 at 6:53 am

I quit, because I got lung cancer and had the upper lobe of my left lung removed. Knowing what I know now I would never have smoked. Believe me it is not worth it and I do understand how hard it is to quit. I was seventy when I quit.

Osterloo William
February 01, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I quit smoking about 10 years ago.Advised My insurance Co and the premiums went down quite a bit .Nice surprise.As for not reporting Your smoking ,Forget it .After You croak the Insurance Co will demand a Doctors proof You did,nt smoke.And if it says You smoked Your family gets nothing and they don,t get Your money back.Because You lied on Your statement.

February 01, 2013 at 7:48 pm

New findings show that smokers may cost insurers less than non smokers in the long run. They die typically 10 years or more sooner than their non smoking counterparts and avoid the period in life where most medical care costs occur. There are a couple of European studies showing this unexpected medical cost finding.

Maybe we should not tax tobacco products as part of health care reform.

Mrs. M
February 01, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Hellooooooo If you want to go after anyone for us people who got caught up in smoking then why don't you go after Philip Morris for the costs. I got caught up smoking when I was 14 and I am now 47. YUP 33 years and still smoking. It's not an easy task to just get up and QUIT. Whether or not you "ask God for help" that's easier said then done. I think the Philip Morris company should pay for the health care increase! Oh wait, let's all us smokers start lawsuits against them and then they will fold and then all us smokers would HAVE TO QUIT!!! This is because of Obama health care act and that's right he doesn't smoke anymore! Wait he's a reformed smoker no wonder why he signed it!!!! Pure dictator ship!!!

gee R
February 01, 2013 at 8:10 am

to hell with the insurance companies just tell them you don't smoke

January 31, 2013 at 10:45 pm

YES, very hard to quit because I did it. Took me three trys and a year of cheating after I "quit". One thing I have learned is you can do anything you want to do if you 1) DECIDE 2) STICK TO IT 3) STAY POSITIVE and last but not least 4) ASK GOD FOR HELP. I loved smoking and didn't want to quit but knew that it was the best thing for me to do. Couldn't be happier and wished I would have done it sooner. It's never too late either. Good luck!!

January 31, 2013 at 8:08 pm

divide and conquer

January 31, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Yes, I am a smoker and I'm sick and tired of everyone discriminating against us. Everyone acts like it is so easy to quit. Well let me tell you it's not. I quit for 8 months and the cravings never went away. Then I started to gain some weight and the Doctor's told me about that. If it's not smoking it will be something else! I was on vacation, in the smoking section and people were complaining.....HELLO!!! IT CLEARLY SAID SMOKING SECTION....IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT DON'T STAND THERE!!!! What happen to affordable health care.....under this plan half the smokers will not have health insurance. This country is going to hell real fast!!! I'm done, tired of all the bull...enough said!!!

January 31, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Health Care worker, the reason that life insurance companies are asking all of those pesky medical questions is because they are taking a risk. Many policies are written for six and seven figures. Last year, the life insurancce ccompany I represent paid over $383,000,000 in death benefits and we are one of the most conservative companies with arguably the strictest underwriting standards in the industry

If you were looking for an insurance company, wouldn't you want one that tries to limit the risk they take on clients? Would you want to put your trust in a company that underwrites everyone with no controls in place? That company would go broke. There are many instanes of that happening already. Pelase understand that while those questions may seem nosy, they are very accuracte in determining life expectancy.