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Poll: Majority Favors Charging Smokers Higher Insurance Rates, But Not Overweight People

By Kelsey Miller

August 13th, 2013, 7:29 AM

Fifty-eight percent of Americans surveyed favor charging smokers higher insurance rates, but only 41 percent would charge overweight people more, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of allowing health plans participating in online insurance marketplaces to charge smokers up to 50 percent higher premiums than non-smokers. This provision, however, is not required, and some states and the District of Columbia are choosing to not charge more. In addition, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and D.C. have declared they will not charge smokers higher premiums, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. There is no provision in the ACA for charging overweight individuals more.

Attitudes toward smokers have changed little since 2003, when 65 percent said a higher rate is justifiable because of higher health costs. Smokers, not surprisingly, are less likely to agree with being charged more, the new poll found. Of those who had smoked cigarettes within a week of being surveyed, only 28 percent think higher rates are a good idea, while 65 percent of non-smokers support  higher premiums.

Consumer advocates are skeptical that charging smokers more for health insurance will discourage them from smoking. Some think the higher rates will cause smokers to drop their coverage altogether and some state officials see this option as a form of discrimination, akin to pricing health insurance differently based on gender or medical conditions.

The poll, part of the annual Consumption Habits survey, surveyed 2,027 adults in all 50 states and D.C. from July 10-14 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

10 Responses to “Poll: Majority Favors Charging Smokers Higher Insurance Rates, But Not Overweight People”

  1. Texas Tea says:

    I love to use tobacco products. Cigars, cigarettes, pipe, snuff, dip, you name it, I use it! I have used tobacco since I was 6 years old. Tobacco grows wild in Texas. My mother taught me to smoke. It’s none of your business if I use tobacco products. Nobody should discriminate against me just because I am exercising my rights. I should not pay more for healthcare just because I use tobacco products. As a Texan, I expect my elected officials to defend my rights. Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake are my members of Congress. As a tea party member, I voted these three guys to go to Congress and defend my right to use tobacco. I expect them to block any legislation that has me paying more for healthcare just because I use tobacco.

  2. Whoa Doggie says:

    Wow Texas Tea. So let me get this straight. Rather than pay your free market share of health care (because you smoke you are certain to require more medical care) you want SOCIALIZED MEDICINE to subsidize you and have other, healthy non-smokers help pay for your care when you get cancer and die? My head is spinning…

  3. Dennis says:

    I think this makes sense. If you’re going to choose to smoke, something that will eventually lead to health problems, you should pay a bit more if you’re going to get insurance. If I was an insurer I would want to know if a person smokes, so that I can charge a higher premium because I’m taking more risks.

    With obesity, the problem is that you can’t really determine the cause of obesity. (not yet anyway). Yes you can correlate eating certain kinds of food might cause obesity, but obesity is a symptom of many factors. Also if notice they use the words overweight. Being overweight can mean that you have more weight that you usually should, and this weight can be muscle (which is healthy!).

  4. Jeff says:

    Pretty sure that Texas Tea comment is parody by an undercover liberal. But who knows.

  5. Miek Thompson says:

    How many pollsters were tobacco users? How many obese? I believe this poll may have been skewed by the fact that almost 33% of Americans are overweight or obese. (approximately 680 of the respondents), while approximately 20% are tobacco users (approximately 410 respondents), so by general consensus results are predisposed in favor of normal insurance rates for obese yet higher rates for tobacco users.

  6. Anti-Texan says:

    America is the wealthiest nation with the most expensive healthcare in the world. It’s free-market Republican style healthcare where competition amongst providers and insurers is supposed to keep prices down. Anyone see that happening? It’s a competitive style of healthcare where when you travel outside of your network of providers, you virtually have no coverage. Best healthcare in the world? Yeah! Right! Go tell that to someone from Canada or the UK.

  7. What a Joke says:

    So let me get this straight. 22% smoke, 35.9% are obese. They want to increase what smokers pay for premiums (on top of already paying higher taxes on the tobacco to begin with) on the off-chance that they have medical conditions in the future and what they will cost, however obese insureds shouldn’t be charged an additional premium because….? Especially those who are morbidly obese. What, they have no medical conditions as they age? Diabetes, heart conditions, hypertension, etc. The list goes on and on of the medical problems associated with obesity.

    Just for kicks, go do a search for cost of obesity vs. smoking and read the articles and research that has been done. Obesity costs more than the long-term effects of smoking, and there are more obese people. Even Obama is trying to come out with anti-obesity campaigns, not anti-smoking. So what should they be focusing on again?

  8. Scott says:

    It’s your right to smoke. It’s your right to drive a sports car. Insurance companies charge a more for driving a sports car. I see no difference in charging someone more for a risky behavior such as smoking.

  9. Kenneth says:

    Who says smoking is a risky behavior? The same people that are lying about carbon emissions destroying the planet? There’s no proof about either topic. Nobody has the right to tell me I should be pay more for health insurance just because I smoke or just because I still burn coal To heat my home. That’s why I voted for tea party candidates who believe that we should shrink government as much as possible. Government needs to stay out of my business. If my pursuit of happiness in smoking a cigarette or heating my home with coal, it’s nobody’s business but mine!

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