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Who Should Pay More for Insurance: Smokers or ‘Significantly Overweight’?

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Americans may prefer to see health insurance rates increase for smokers than for people who are significantly overweight.

Justin McCarthy, an analyst at Washington-based Gallup Inc., has published data supporting that conclusion in a summary of results from a new consumer consumption habits survey.

Gallup based the results on telephone interviews with 1,021 adults in all 50 U.S. states conducted in early July. The company also conducted a similar survey in 2003.

(Related: Many Support Higher Premiums for Smokers)

About 43% of the participants said they approve of the idea of charging smokers higher rates. Just 37% approve of the idea of charging significantly overweight people higher rates.

Americans may be tougher on smokers because they have more sympathy for those who are overweight, McCarthy writes.

Americans may also believe that smoking has a bigger effect on health care costs than obesity does, McCarthy writes.

Views Have Changed

The percentage of Americans who approve of charging smokers higher rates has fallen sharply, from 64%, in 2003.

The percentage who approve of charging significantly overweight people higher rate has dropped from 43%.

Political Divide

Democrats are now less likely to support charging smokers or significantly overweight people higher rates than they were in 2003, McCarthy writes.

McCarthy found that Republicans and independents hold roughly the same views on insurance rates for smokers and significantly obese people now that they held back in 2003.

— Read Consumer Groups: Give ACA Regs Teeth on ThinkAdvisor.