More than 480,000 people die each year from the effects of smoking cigarettes, according to the CDC. Due to health problems and mortality rates related to smoking, users have to pay higher health insurance premiums. Insurance companies charge more to recoup the costs associated with cancer, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, COPD, and other health issues.
The Affordable Care Act and Smoking
The Affordable Care Act allows insurance companies to charge a tobacco surcharge of up to 50% for smokers. This surcharge is added to the premium, meaning that smokers pay 50% more per month on health insurance than nonsmokers do. The surcharge is not adjusted based on income, so it is not subsidized by the government.
Most states have implemented the maximum surcharge, but that is not the case for all states. Connecticut only uses the 50% surcharge on the individual market but does not allow a surcharge for the small group market.
California, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. prohibit a smoking surcharge. The surcharge is less than 50% for those who live in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Colorado.
Can Smokers Reduce Premiums?
Smokers do have some power to reduce their health insurance premiums. Supervised smoking cessation programs can lower premiums for smokers. Smokers need to enroll in the program and then prove they have quit for a predetermined amount of time before premiums go down.
While some insurance policies cover smoking cessation programs, others do not. Some smokers cannot handle the expense of the program, so they try to quit on their own. Those who are successful can reduce their premiums over time.
Bundling insurance policies is another option for smokers who want to reduce their premiums. Some companies reduce premiums if the health insurance policy is bundled with life insurance, auto insurance, and homeowner’s insurance.
How Do Insurance Companies Know When People Smoke?
Insurance companies rarely assess people to find out if they smoke. Instead, they use the honor system to determine if someone is a smoker or not. People are required to disclose their smoking status when filling out insurance applications.
As tempting as it might be to lie to the insurance company, doing so is a form of insurance fraud. This is soft fraud and can carry penalties that include community service and, in some cases, jail time.
Those who are convicted of insurance fraud also might be required to pay back the surcharges they avoided. Depending on how long the fraud was going on, this can be quite expensive.
Getting Affordable Health Insurance
Smokers can compare insurance policies online to find the best value. Those who need extra help can call 1-855-881-0430 to speak to an insurance agent. The agent will explain how much extra the policyholder will have to pay due to tobacco use and what can be done to reduce premiums. The agent will also discuss policies that cover smoking cessation programs for those who are interested.