Smoking and Health Insurance - Everything you should Know

If you are a smoker, be prepared to pay a higher amount for your medical insurance policy. Since health risks are higher for smokers, insurance companies charge a higher premium to mitigate the risks associated with it.

Health insurance and smoking do not go hand-in-hand. You must understand that how they are related to each other in order to realize how tobacco consumption can affect your finances. Smoking can impact the medical coverage costs to a great extent. Health insurance rates are determined by the insurance companies differently for individuals who smoke.

What Describes Tobacco use?

When you consume tobacco in any form (cigars, cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco or pipe tobacco) for more than four times in one week and continue to do so for more than six months, it is defined as tobacco use. However, the term ‘smoking’ can be associated with other products too.

Vapour Products and Electronic Cigarettes:

Electronic cigarettes run on batteries and serve as nicotine inhalers. Smokers use such devices to change the traditional use of cigarettes. However, if you are planning to quit smoking, this might not be an effective measure. Vapour products and electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco. Thus, it is somewhat difficult to classify them under tobacco use.

How Smoking Affects Health and Insurance Premiums:

The cost of a will go up if you are a smoker. There are several reasons why you will have to pay more premium if you smoke. Some of the serious illness that you may face for smoking are as follows:

  • Respiratory illness and complications
  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer (mostly lung cancer)

Smoking can also lead to pregnancy complications and osteoporosis in women. When the magnitude of such illnesses and deaths caused due to them are considered, it is very easy to understand why smokers have to pay more premiums to avail health insurance.

What should a Smoker do for Lowering Health Insurance Premiums?

If you smoke, you will be paying more for the medical insurance premiums. If you wish to lower the amount of premiums, you must do the following:

  • Find insurance companies that are smoker-friendly: The population that smokes is huge in India. Although the claim risk is very high, insurance companies still go ahead and offer insurance to the smokers. Some organisations attract the smokers aggressively but offering comparatively lower premium amounts. Look for an organisation that offers a health insurance policy that suits your needs.
  • Join smoking cessation program: Some insurance companies and employers come up with smoking cessation programs that effectively lower the cost of health insurance premiums. You must stay without smoking for at least 2 years before the premiums start dropping.

Tobacco Use and Women:

Tobacco use is very high in men. However, the gap between male smokers and female smokers can come down massively. There is huge population of female smokers too. Smoking, in general, can cause lung cancer, hypertension, stroke, etc. These illnesses can happen to be both men and women. Along with these, women who smoke are also prone to osteoporosis. They can also suffer from complications when they are pregnant. A woman who smokes will also be affected by the health insurance costs.

How to the Insurance Companies know that you Smoke?

When you make an application for a health insurance policy, you will have to report your smoking habits. Generally, two questions are asked – 1. Do you smoke? 2. Have you been using tobacco in the last six months?

If you lie to avail lower premiums it is known as insurance fraud. Although it is not as serious as other frauds associated with insurance, you will still have to pay a penalty committing the fraud. Routine medical examinations are carried out to verify your answers.

Reasons to Quit Smoking Forever:

Cigarette smoking is one of the major causes for death in India. Heart diseases, cancer and other diseases are increasing due to smoking. Studies have revealed that there are several perks for not smoking:

  • 20 minutes after you quit smoking, the blood pressure and heart beat rate drops
  • 12 hours after you stop smoking, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood reduces
  • After 3 months of quitting smokes, the lung functions and circulation improves
  • After 9 months of quitting cigarettes, shortness of breath and coughing decreases
  • After a year of quitting smokes, heart attack risks goes down
  • After 5 years, the risk of cancer in throat, mouth, bladder and oesophagus reduces to a great extent
  • 10 years after you quit cigarettes, the chances of lung cancer drops
  • 15 years after you quit smoking, the chances of coronary heart diseases reduce

GST rate of 18% applicable for all financial services effective July 1, 2017.

Disclaimer: Premiums may vary depending upon factors like age, location and prevailing taxes/GST.

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