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Health insurance to burn smokers

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
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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146 Comments
Summerlover97
January 31, 2013 at 9:50 am

Sooooo, does this penalty only refer to nicotine smokers? Or does it include pot smoking also? Smoking is bad, but yet states are now allowing pot smoking? Yes, pot doesn't .... YET have the chemicals in it that cigarettes do, but it causes health issues related to lung health. Seems to me that policies come out of both the mouth and the back sides of those making decisions for us.

SUE
January 31, 2013 at 9:50 am

IT AMAZES ME THAT THE ONLY PEOPLE THAT DIE AND GET SICK ARE SMOKERS. THE PEOPLE THAT DIDN'T SMOKE SPENT THE MOST TIME AT THE DOCTORS OFFICE WHERE I WORKED.

sick of it
January 31, 2013 at 9:47 am

Another excuse of raising insurance. Funny how I pay more money for kids schooling than the people who have kids? Is that a different situation? It cost me 6,000 a year for a school system I have never used, can not claim the kid and can't claim head of household. What about the extra cost on our electric and phone bill, (paying for others who can not pay??) I guess it depends on who you are!
I work with people who are out of work all the time (non smokers) and the ones that do smoke are working. The stats are not correct. I wish quitting smoking was easy, but they do not really help you to stop, just complain.
I am sick of paying for others, so we should stop doing it across the board, not just for certain things. Everything is taxed, stop the big corporate world and their big fat paychecks

Shawn
January 31, 2013 at 9:38 am

YES!!!!!!!!! Do it. You want to smoke????????? YOU pay for it!!!!

Linda
January 31, 2013 at 9:28 am

One thing I don't agree on is we should be able to choose our own insurance company. If my employer offers health insurance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, I am paying $100 more for pregnancy. Why should I have to pay this? I can't get pregnant. Why should a male pay for this, they can't get pregnant either. I think that policy needs to be reformed. If I go outside of my employement and with same company, prices for a good policy is $100 cheaper per month. Because my employer offers insurance through BCBS I am not allowed to get another plan outside of what my employer offers. HOpe that makes sense. Again I should be able to choose where I get my insurance from.

Do you realize how much one person pays out yearly in insurances (of all kinds) such as healthcare, vehicle, life, homeowners. No wonder I can't afford to do anything fun!!!

Grandpa
January 31, 2013 at 9:20 am

I thought the concept of health insurance (or any insurance) was to spread the cost over ALL who are insured? The only thing this will do is cause those who are smokers to go without insurance paying a minimal penalty to the Feds. Also, did they not have a settlement with the tobacco companies to cover the "Future Medical Costs" of smokers? (I know that is what the settlement in MN was SUPPOSED to cover.) But in MN they have hijacked the settlement money into the general fund to cover other over sending issues.
As another commenter mentioned, Soon they will be adding surcharges for the people who consume sugars, trans fats and on and on and on...

Chaz
January 31, 2013 at 9:08 am

Another reason to get on the disability train. Their payment is always zero.

Irritated
January 31, 2013 at 9:07 am

I am a smoker and would love if they would outlaw them. I have tried quitting and one day it will work; however, if the insurance companies want to charge smokers more than they should also charge more to people who drink alcohol. I seldom drink but have seen the affects of it as well. I cannot see anyone doing this though because there are to many politicians that are drunks. Alcohol and cigarettes should both be outlawed. Also, how many other bad habits are out there? To much caffeine, to much sugar, obesity, if you want to penalize one group then they should all be penalized. Why do I want to pay for someone who won't stop overeating and not exercising. I walk and exercise regularly, smoker or not I speed walk four miles up and down hills with no problem and maintain a healthy weight. Fair is fair

Mike DiFebbo
January 31, 2013 at 9:00 am

I SAY WHATS IT MATTER THERE GONNA FIGURE EVERY EXCUSE TO RAISE RATES NO MATTER WHT... WHAT IF EVERYONE GOT RID OF INS AND JUST PAID CASH... OR NOT PAY ANY MEDICAL BILLS IF U GO TO THE HOSPITAL... INS COMPANY ARE CROOKS LIKE FUNERALS,PROPERTY TAX, MORTAGES ETC.... EVEN OUR CONGRESS

Renee
January 31, 2013 at 8:59 am

just another way to f**k smokers, has anybody forgotten that smoking is an addiction much like heroin. It is not so easy to quit, and wasn't it the government who fed us advertisements growing up so we would try smoking and get addicted? Just another way to f**k smokers more than we're already f**ked. And, I agree, who's gonna pay for all the programs smoking pays for if everybody could quit? I'll take my chances with no med. insurance, because it won't pay for the holistic care I prefer, anyways, and I cannot afford medical insurance just trying to pay the rent, food, gasoline.