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Smokers should pay higher health insurance premiums

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:26am
Smoking or chewing tobacco causes diseases in people. Fact. Since theses are voluntary acitvities, those that choose to smoke or chew tobacco should accept responsibility for the consequences. The cost for caring for those diseases exceeds $167 billion of dollars each year (http://www.lungusa.org/site/c.dvLUK9O0E/b.39853/k.5D05/Smoking_101_Fact_Sheet.ht) and are sadly largely preventable. I was asked yesterday by a reported if I agreed with legislation in South Carolina to charge state employees who chew or smoke tobacco an extra $25 per month. My answer is yes!! This would affect an estimated 24% of state employees.

This logic was best stated by Gregory Connolly, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. He said insurers should ''clearly make smokers pay their way." ''When a smoker buys a pack of cigarettes for $5, the actual cost is more like $13 to $15 if you consider the future burden on healthcare costs and on employers due to lost time at work because of illness," he said. ''In a rational economic model, we should say if you want to smoke, fine, just put up the $15. At the same time, it's a disease, and insurers have an obligation to provide smoking-cessation programs." Gregory Connolly, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said insurers should ''clearly make smokers pay their way." ''When a smoker buys a pack of cigarettes for $5, the actual cost is more like $13 to $15 if you consider the future burden on healthcare costs and on employers due to lost time at work because of illness," he said. ''In a rational economic model, we should say if you want to smoke, fine, just put up the $15. At the same time, it's a disease, and insurers have an obligation to provide smoking-cessation programs." (http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/04/16/bay_states_nonsmokers_could)

Here's another quote: "Management is facing tough decisions with regard to controlling [health] costs. You really have two choices: make everyone share more of the cost burden, or use your legal right to go after those who are demonstrably reckless with their health. Since a small minority uses the majority of health-care resources, they need to be held accountable for their actions." - Uwe Reinhardt, professor of economics & public affairs at Princeton University (http://healthpolicyohio.org/pdf/Smokefiredinfo.pdf)


This is a nationwide trend. Some national employers charge more for smokershttp://www.mindfully.org/Health/2006/Smokers-Pay-More17feb06.htm. For example, Pepsi Co. charges an extra $100 per month. Some companies will not hire people who smoke. It's not just where you live. Since West Virginia did it in 2000, Alabama (2005, $24), Kentucky, Georgia (2005, $40), Indiana, Kansas and South Dakota ($30) have followed. Surcharges range from $15 to $40 monthly. If this leglislation passes, this would make SC the eighth state to charge extra. Although South Carolina has a long tradition of being very friendly to the tobacco industry and smokers, this unfairness and ignoring of sound preventative medicine must stop. Please support this legislation.

Addendum: as for what happens to the lungs of smokers and those exposed to second-hand smoke, read here.
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