Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Should Smokers and Obese Folks Pay More for Health Insurance?

Here's what Americans think:
Sixty percent of those polled favored higher premiums for smokers while 30 percent felt the obese should pay more.
I'm totally down with smokers paying more for health insurance -- since they are rapidly draining the system with their healthcare costs -- but how do you manage that? How do you prove who smokes and who doesn't without an x-ray? And what about social smokers who maybe smoke when they go out with friends on a Saturday night, but that's the only time?

It gets even messier with obesity. Most would want the BMI used as the determinant. But by that measure, at 6' tall and 205 lbs, with a BMI of 27-28, I am overweight. But my bodyfat is around 12%, which puts me in the "athlete" range for men my age. So I clearly am more healthy than someone clocking a 28 BMI with 25% bodyfat.

When employers offer medical insurance, they can certainly give discounts to non-smokers and those who are not overweight. But it may come down to getting a physical from your doctor to get the health discounts if we ever go to some form of universal care, which the insurance industry now supports (as of Monday and the Dems controlling both Houses of Congress). This poses serious issues for those with pre-existing conditions who have managed to stay insured over the years and avoid having those conditions factor into rate increases.

More from the article on Reuters:
The poll of 1,517 people conducted in July 2006 found consumers are ambiguous on the role of government and health insurance.

Two-thirds said government should move toward universal health insurance, but 55 percent said the government's role should be limited to help the poor, unemployed and those otherwise unable to buy it.

Said Darling: "Our view is that it has to be shared responsibility; the government is going to have to pay," meaning taxpayers.

About 52 percent of those polled supported mandatory insurance, while 48 percent said it should be left the individual to decide.

We are moving toward universal care, and the new Democratic Congress will certainly push that agenda. With the insurance industry behind them, they'll be able to lobby the GOP into supporting it as well. So the question is, how do we work it?

What do you think about this? I'd like to hear what others think about discounts for good health and about universal care. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.


VW said...

How far is this from genetic predisposition? Uhh check out your chromosone 6. Your genes suggest heart disease may be in your future. Therefore you are penalized 15%. Its a slippery slope.

DraganB said...

Yes, the proof that one is a smoker is difficult to obtain. And there is another reason why smokers should pay more..they endanger those around them affected by passive smoking.
But then again, in the same mess is everyone that drives car on fuel, or burning woods for heat or what not.

One way of dealing with it is to enforce taxes on buying cigaretes (or other endangering agents). This way, some percentage of the total cigarete price could go to health insurance. (I guess this is already a practice somewhere)..

Anyhow, health and ecology should be considered more throughly.