Individual health insurance carriers in Colorado typically consider tobacco use when setting premiums. Rate increases vary from one company to another, and sometimes depend on other factors like age, BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. When Aetna entered the individual market in Colorado, their underwriting did not call for a increase in price for a smoker. If a smoker were obese, they could be declined for the combination of factors, but an otherwise healthy smoker would have the same premium as a non-smoker.
That’s about to change. Aetna will join the other health insurance carriers in Colorado when they start offering policies for tobacco users with a rate increase as of September 1, 2008. Nobody likes to see higher health insurance rates for any group, but it’s logically difficult to justify giving the same premium to smokers and non-smokers alike. Tobacco use damages health. There’s the obvious long-term effects – cancer, heart disease, strokes… but there are also lots of smaller, day to day effects, things like asthma, bronchitis, allergies, more frequent colds, etc. These little things all add up, especially if the insured seeks medical treatment for them. And since the decision to smoke is a personal one – and one that can be changed – it really only makes sense to charge a higher premium to smokers. On the plus side, I’ve never met a smoker over the age of 18 who hasn’t tried at least once to quit. So one more incentive to do so – namely higher health insurance premiums – can actually be a benefit to smokers looking for a reason to give quitting another shot.