Don’t Charge Smokers More for Insurance, Health Groups and Tobacco Makers Say

Public health groups and tobacco companies are united in their opposition to a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows insurance companies to charge smokers 50 percent more than nonsmokers, The Washington Post reports.

Groups such as the American Cancer Society say the high cost could make health insurance too expensive for smokers, who are disproportionately low income. Tobacco companies object to the provision because they say it discriminates against smokers, the article notes.

“We’re anti-smoking, not anti-smoker,” David Woodmansee of the American Cancer Society told the newspaper.

Tobacco companies and public health groups may have success in fighting the provision on the state level. States can bar health insurance companies from considering tobacco use when they set rates.

Under the ACA, starting in 2014 health insurance companies will no longer be able to charge higher premiums for patients who are expected to have higher health costs. However, the law does allow insurers to charge smokers up to a 50 percent surcharge on premiums.

An analysis by the Institute for Health Policy Solutions estimated as a result of the surcharge, a low-income person’s premium could increase from $708 to $3,308.

Most health insurance companies support the provision. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said if insurers are not allowed to adjust rates for tobacco use, they will have to raise rates for everyone.

9 Responses to Don’t Charge Smokers More for Insurance, Health Groups and Tobacco Makers Say

  1. Edward O'Reilly | February 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    An alternative might be to sharply raise the tax on tobacco products and devote the revenue to medical coverage. This would have the added benefit of reducing new users.

  2. Gail Chmielewski | February 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    If smokers are charged more for insurance than drinkers and drug users should also pay more!

  3. Fr. Jack Kearney | February 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I applaud such efforts to stop discrimination against smokers. I hope the same folks will fight discrimination against those who are trying to get off cigarettes by using low-risk products like electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. If insurance companies punish people for having any nicotine in their system or ask them to declare themselves to be “niootine free” they actually punish some people who are trying to do the right thing.

    • Benny | February 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Using smokeless tobacco to quit smoking is more addictive! Using non-FDA approved e-cigarettes that contain nicotine to get off nicotine is like using martinis to get off addiction to beer. Sounds good to me! No wonder the big tobacco companies are now pushing them.

      • Fr. Jack Kearney | February 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm

        Benny…I used ecigs to quit smoking, not nicotine. It is the delivery system that is the problem; inhaled nicotine is pretty harmless compared to smoking. If you really want to help smokers read the research and start promoting ecigs!

        • Ruthe Griffin | February 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm


  4. Benny | February 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    How about rewarding people for healthy livestyle choices, i.e. discounts on their insurance for being tobacco free, within normal weight range, keeping blood glucose levels in check, exercising, etc.? We can’t afford to keep the status quo.

  5. Rudolph Pazdernik | February 19, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Not only does it make sense from an economics view, but it would give smokers one more strong incentive to quit. As an ex-smoker, I remember that the increasing price of cigarettes was one factor that played a part in my decision.

  6. Tina | September 26, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I am close to fifty years old and have smoked most of my life. I eat healthy, excercise and go to the doctor maybe twice a year. I already pay way more insurance premiums than I ever use, but someone who is on 20 different medications, going to the doctor 10 plus times a year and multiple hospital stays, can use their entire food stamp allotment in moon pies and wiegh 400lbs and my rates will go up. What is wrong with this picture?

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