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Public Support for Smokers Paying Higher Insurance Rates

By Lisa Zamosky

One growing trend in employer-sponsored health insurance involves companies rewarding workers for healthy behaviors with reduced insurance premiums, gift cards and even cash. Some employers have taken it a step further, choosing to penalize people who continue to smoke or who are overweight.

A recent NPR-Thomson Reuters Health poll of 3,000 adults aimed to find out just what Americans think about requiring people to pay more for their health care when they aren’t keeping themselves in the best shape.

Turns out we’re harder on smokers than people who pack on a few extra pounds. Here’s how the numbers break down:

When asked if smokers should pay more for health insurance than non-smokers, nearly 59% of respondents said yes. Not surprisingly, 67% of the smokers polled didn’t like the idea at all.

People were a bit more forgiving toward the overweight, perhaps because so many of us in this country are. Almost 31% of respondents said that people who are overweight or obese should pay more for health insurance than people of normal weight, a feeling that was most strongly reflected among those with a college education and people earning 0,000 or more a year.

However, 89% of those asked said it was not acceptable to deny someone employment because they were overweight.

The majority of respondents – 85% – said they were in favor of healthy behaviors such as exercise, healthy eating and not using tobacco being rewarded with a discount on their health insurance premiums.

The three biggest drivers of healthcare costs, according to the 3,000 people asked in this survey were:

  • Smoking (28.5%),
  • Obesity (27.6%) and
  • Stress (25.2%)

Your turn: How do you feel about people having to pay more for their health insurance based on their habits and their weight?

Sound off in the comments section below.


The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Second Opinion are... Expand


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