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Smokers pay 14% more for health insurance than non-smokers

By on January 9th, 2013
Filed: Consumers, Facts, Health Insurance, You

Should smokers pay more for health insurance?

You’ve probably seen the graphic anti-smoking ads from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The long-term health consequences of tobacco smoking are really frightening. Most of us can name at least one parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle who died from a smoking-related illness.

There are shorter-term consequences to smoking too – financial consequences. With all the taxes levied on cigarettes in most states, a pack-a-day habit is pretty expensive – and being a smoker can significantly raise your health insurance costs.

eHealth, Inc. recently published a report comparing the cost of individual health insurance for smokers compared to the costs faced by non-smokers. Here’s what we found:

  • Smokers who buy health insurance on their own pay an average monthly premium of $213
  • That’s 14% higher than the average monthly premium paid by non-smokers, which is $187
  • Women smokers are especially hard hit: they pay an average of $247 for health insurance coverage per month
  • Which is 22% more than what non-smoking women pay in average health insurance premiums each month, $203

When you buy health insurance on your own the insurance company will ask if you’ve used tobacco in the past 12 months. If the answer is Yes, then even if you’re an infrequent user, the health insurance company will consider you a smoker. And as someone at greater health risk, your insurance premiums will be higher.

This won’t necessarily change in 2014, when the last big provisions of the health reform law come into effect. Though state themselves can say otherwise, the federal Affordable Care Act will still allow insurers to “rate up” applicants for tobacco use.

Comparisons of average premium costs for smokers and non-smokers in the eHealth, Inc. report were derived from a sample of more than 275,000 individual major medical policies purchased through eHealthInsurance.com and with coverage in effect as of February 2012.

To learn more about the impact of smoking on health insurance premiums and about the methodology used in eHealth’s report, click here.

Image by Flickr user Drongowski


About Keith Mendonsa

As a Sales Officer in the individual and family department at eHealth Insurance, Keith Mendonsa has been featured on CNBC News in the Bay Area and his expert Health Care opinions have been quoted in several media publications. At the core, Keith is a family man, happily married with a rambunctious 2 year old son and another child on the way.

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