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Why do health insurance companies make smokers pay more but...

Discussion in 'Tobacco / Nicotine' started by codeofthegrave, Jul 5, 2015.

  1. ...they don't make obese people pay more?

    I am 21, 155 lbs and yes I do smoke. But I have a coworker who weights about 350 lbs and she pays 40 dollars less per month for her health insurance. One pack of cigarettes is equal to about 100 lbs more work on your heart, she weighs almost 200 lbs more than me so her risk for a heart attack is double.

    By why do I have to pay more? She's the one that has the bigger health risks!
  2. Totalarmordestine

    Totalarmordestine Senior Contributor

    People buying health insurance on their own who have a body mass index (BMI) in the “Obese” range do pay more on average for their health insurance premiums than people with a BMI in the normal range. We recently published a report describing average monthly health insurance premiums for American health based on BMI and smoking status and you can find the results here:

    Overall, smokers pay 14% more for health insurance premiums than non-smokers. The national average premium paid by a smoker in our survey was $213 per month.

    A health insurance policyholder with a BMI in the obese range pays 22% more in health insurance premiums than a person with a BMI in the normal range. The average premium paid by someone in the obese BMI range in our survey was $207 per month.

    Our data shows that the percentage change in monthly premiums is greater for obese people vs people with a normal-range BMI, rather than between smokers and non-smokers regardless of their BMI. Non-smoking persons with a BMI in the normal range are going to pay substantially less than either smokers or people with a BMI in the obese range.

    You’re right that smoking tends to raise your monthly health insurance premiums more than being overweight. Health insurance companies tend to consider smoking a greater risk factor than being overweight. That said, there are other factors that can account for the difference in cost between your health insurance coverage and the coverage your coworker has. Assuming you don’t have employer-sponsored coverage but each bought coverage on your own, your plan may have more robust benefits, for example. Or, your coworker’s plan may have lower monthly premiums but a correspondingly higher annual deductible.
  3. thepieeatingjay

    thepieeatingjay Senior Contributor

    Because you smoke you are more at risk of numerous diseases. Therefore your rates are higher. Yes chronic overweight people should pay more also but this creates a problem for companies regarding discrimination. The law says you can't discriminate against someone because of a weight issue. No one wants to go there and chance lawsuits.
  4. shadowsupernature

    shadowsupernature Senior Contributor

    Yes, insurance premiums for individual policies are higher for obese people. But not on a group insurance policy. Your co-worker may pay less for another reason like fewer dependents. Maybe you have health problems that she doesnt.
  5. tarverten

    tarverten Senior Contributor

    Even though I can see your point to an extent, smoking is the higher risk. And it's also a deliberate choice. Obesity isn't always a choice. And you NEED food to live. You don't NEED smoking to live.

    Yes, obesity has it's own health issues. But it's not comparible to smoking.

    But to take the matter futher, you have to be careful of opening pandora's box with this question. After you single out obesity, then what? Higher rates for those that are skinny for malnutrition? Maybe for those that had parents that were smokers, drinkers, or drug users?

    Or how about for those that go to work in not-so-safe neighborhoods?

    See, my point is you can easily nitpick ANY kind of excuse to raise rates if you take this too far.
  6. blastguardgear

    blastguardgear Senior Contributor

    Because smoking is a choice. Being overweight is not always a choice.

    You do not have to pay more; you have another option: You could quit smoking and pay less.

    She might not be able to lose weight.
  7. pwarbi

    pwarbi Community Champion

    As far as I'm aware health insurance does cost more for obese people aswell as for smokers. Especially these days, companies are well aware of what sort of risk goes with what sort of illness or disease and will put their premiums up accordingly.
  8. Adrianna

    Adrianna Community Champion

    Why do you have to pay more you ask. You are a liability to them. They figure that you will get cancer and they need extra money. There are a ton of other health issues associated with people that smoke cigarettes. This will cost them more to keep you on so they need to get as much as they can from you.
    The sad part is when you get way older and really need your coverage. This is when they will decline on paying for things.
    What I don't get is why would you even get health insurance if you are a smoker? What is the point? You don't care about yourself so why have health insurance. You can get an exemption on your beliefs of not giving a blah about yourself. You'll smoke, put that down your throat, lungs, and stomach. Absorb it into your system and when your throat hurts you'll go to a doctor that tells you there is throat cancer or whatever. Now you need treatment and drugs cause you didn't care. Why go that far if you don't care?
    It's like I need health insurance because I am slowly killing myself. Coverage to not care about yourself to line other people's pockets. I guess some people aren't familiar with the term "problem solution". They (healthcare, government, lobbyists, pharmaceutical companies etc) create the problem and offer the make money and encourage the depopulation of the world.
  9. Jane

    Jane Active Contributor

    I think this is what it usually comes down to actually.

    They can charge more for smokers because it's a CHOICE. If they tried to charge more for obese patients, all sorts of lawsuits would break out because obesity is sometimes caused by other health issues and people would cry out that it's discrimination. Smoking is a choice through and through, though, so they can "tax it" essentially.
  10. bsthebenster

    bsthebenster Community Champion

    I've said this same thing about sin taxes. Where I live, we have "free" health care and, as such, the miscreants are made to pay for their inevitable healthcare costs associated with smoking and drinking through paying higher taxes. It seems that people who eat at McDonald's on a daily basis are exempt from that rule though. Hopefully that starts to change soon.
  11. ajzappola

    ajzappola Member

    I was a smoker for years. I failed to get private health insurance because the premiums were too high. Now I have been quit for 6 years, but my husband still smokes, and he is older than me by 12 years. His insurance is 80% higher than mine. Neither of us are obese, but my weight has been in the overweight range (his was always optimal) and I still did not see it effect my rates. It is strange to say that we are not taking notice of how destructive the extra pounds are to our health. As a nursing student I learned about the obesity epidemic and I have to say that this will probably change in the near future. Especially with so many people getting health insurance these days.

    Bottom line is this..... The general public has long since acknowledged the dangers of smoking. They just have not caught up yet with obesity. It is coming though.
  12. henry

    henry Community Champion

    Let's put it this way: Car insurance will charge you a lot more if you don't know how to drive. But I don't know why people just don't say, "No, I don't smoke." But I'm assuming you have to take some kind of physical exam. Yes, I know I sound stupid, but I'm not thinking straight today.
  13. teslastar

    teslastar Member

    td {border: 1px solid #ccc;}br {mso-data-placement:same-cell;}They are trying to influence smokers primarily by economic means. It is not profitable to smoke: for example, health insurance is more expensive for smokers. One of the main methods is to make cigarettes as expensive as possible - for this purpose, and taxes are constantly raised. In 2002 alone, eight U.S. states more than doubled cigarette taxes. New York State, for example, has a $1.50 federal and an equal amount of state tax on cigarettes. As an employee of the Insurance industry, I know that smoking is first and foremost bad for your health, as well as a considerable cost. I quit about a year ago and would advise you to do the same. My life has changed for the better, I don't spend the extra money, and I feel terrific.