Can smokers be discriminated against for health insurance purposes?

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Can smokers be discriminated against for health insurance purposes?

I smoke 10 cigarettes a day and will be forced to pay huge health insurance costs through my employer’s plan. Haven’t had this experience in my 9 years with the company. There are no added fees for obesity or for daily (off the job) alcohol consumption. I feel that if tobacco crops are government subsidized and the product is legally sold, I should not be penalized if morbidly obese and drinkers are not.

Asked on August 10, 2011 Florida

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I know that it seems unfair to you but unfortunately you can indeed be charged more for smoking where health insurance is concerned.  And I disagree with you on the issue of at least obesity.  Over weight people can also be charged a larger (sorry for the pun) premium than those that are within the guidelines for their height, weight, etc.  The effects of smoking - even smoking only 10 cigarettes a day - are well known to all.  If you want to reduce your premium then you need to quit.  It is not discrimination.  It is allocating risk: the insurance company is taking a greater risk insuring you and they are allowed to charge a higher premium because the risks associated with insuring you are greater.   


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