Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gotta Light?

Fast forward to 2014.  We are now purchasing health insurance through exchanges.  Individual and small business will be able to go to a virtual site, with the help of a navigator (possibly a broker or producer) and purchase medical coverage.  Depending upon your household income, you may also be eligible for a subsidy to help pay for that coverage.  The coverage you will be applying for is guaranteed issue, no-questions-asked coverage.  As it stands now, there are only a couple things that could impact the amount that you pay for your plan:

1) Family Composition (Individual, Parent/Child, Husband/Wife, Family)
2) Where you live or Rating Area
3) Age
4) And the only question that has to do with you use tobacco?

If you use tobacco you can be charged up to a 50% higher premium than non-tobacco users.  I understand that tobacco users are at a much higher risk of having health issues and probably should pay more, but what about all the other behaviors that cause illness?  Why is there no rate increase for them?   How about people who are diabetic because of their poor diets?  How about people who use crack or heroin?   While the diabetic gets insulin and diet counseling and the drug addict gets substance abuse treatment and medications to curb the desire, the tobacco user gets a 50% rate increase instead of acupuncture, hypnosis and/or a prescription for Chantix.  In all fairness though, smoking cessation counseling is now included under preventive in all health policies.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is no different than the life insurance industry where typically a tobacco user pays at least 50% more on their coverage.  The main difference is that life insurance isn't guaranteed issue.  If you are a diabetic or drug user, you will probably be turned down entirely.  Since your health plan through the exchange will be guaranteed issue, you can't be turned down.

This is definitely a head-scratcher for me.