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Life Health > Health Insurance > Your Practice

Many Support Higher Premiums for Smokers

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Are Americans becoming more tolerant of smokers? The latest results from a Gallup poll suggests they may be.

Gallup conducted a “consumption habits” (read: lifestyle choices) survey in July, asking respondents whether they thought smokers and people who are obese should pay higher insurance rates.

Related story: Glitch could affect PPACA tobacco-use penalties

A decade ago, the survey showed that 65 percent thought smokers should pay more. Now, that’s down to 58 percent. The Gallup folks shrugged off the drop, saying it was “down modestly.”

Yet people’s attitudes about obesity and insurance rates haven’t really budged. In 2003, 43 percent thought “significantly overweight” people should pay more, and now, 41 percent say they should.

This more tolerant attitude toward the obese could be partly because there a lot more overweight Americans than smoking Americans. Of those surveyed, 45 percent self identified as being significantly overweight. Only 19 percent said they were smokers.

Then there were the “tell-me-something-I-didn’t-know” stats from the survey. Smokers by a wide margin (70 percent to 28 percent) said it was unjustified to charge higher rates for smokers, while for nonsmokers, it was just about the reverse (65 percent justified).

People who were overweight weren’t quite so opposed to higher rates — 63 percent of them felt they shouldn’t have to pay more for insurance.

Republicans were far more likely than Democrats to urge higher rates for obese people. Overall, 47 percent of GOPers wanted to charge higher rates, compared to 37 percent among Democrats. Both parties tended to support higher rates for smokers — 61 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of Democrats.

At the end of the day, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is likely going to set higher rates for smokers and those who are overweight.

Reported Gallup: “Skyrocketing health insurance costs have raised the issue of whether insurers should be able to charge higher rates for higher-risk policyholders. The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that allows insurance companies to charge higher rates for higher-risk policyholders, up to 1.5 times higher for people who smoke. However, a new regulation exempts those who are trying to quit smoking through a tobacco cessation program from this requirement.”

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