Poll: Most Americans want smokers to cough up more money for health insurance
If you smoke, it’s likely that your neighbors want you to pay higher health care premiums than they do.
Six out of 10 Americans think it’s OK to set higher health insurance premiums for people who smoke, according to a July 7-10 Gallup poll of 1,016 adults.
American smokers generate about $96 billion a year in direct health care expenses and $97 billion a year in lost productivity, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates about 46 million people (20 percent of all adults) smoke cigarettes in the United States; smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, accounting for 443,000 deaths each year.
Still, an official with the American Lung Association says it would be detrimental to make it more expensive for smokers to get health insurance.
“We have a concern about creating additional barriers to smokers being able to afford to obtain health insurance,” says Paul Billings, vice president for national policy and advocacy at the American Lung Association. “Seven out of 10 people want to quit smoking, so we need them in the health care system, which provides access to counseling and (smoking) cessation.”
The same poll also indicated that four out of 10 people think it’s OK to set higher health insurance premiums for people who are overweight.
Obesity continues to be a problem in United States. The CDC estimates health care costs related to obesity totaled $147 billion in 2008. About one of every three American adults is obese (body mass index greater than 30), according to the CDC. Obesity often is a factor in some of the leading causes of death, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
By the time the federal health care reform law is in full gear in 2014, it will be illegal for health insurance companies to deny health insurance or charge higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions — including being overweight and being a smoker.
The poll also revealed Americans’ attitudes toward hiring people who smoke or are overweight, with more than eight of every 10 people saying companies shouldn’t be able to deny employment to workers in those categories.