How Does Smoking Affect Your Health Insurance Premium?
There is a common misconception that health insurance providers tend to deny coverage to smokers and tobacco users. But, this is not true. Actually, many health insurance companies are ready to cover those who some, but usually at higher premiums, and further terms and conditions.
Due to its injurious nature, smoking can affect the cost of medical coverage and other healthcare expenses. But as smokers are more likely to be prone to lifestyle diseases than non-smokers, it is more important for them to be covered by a health insurance policy. Let us take a look at how smoking can affect the cost of your health insurance premium.
Can a Smoker Still Get a Health Insurance Policy?
As mentioned above, yes, many health insurers will provide coverage to smokers. The IRDAI even has mandated that smokers have a right to apply for health insurance. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of premium vary from insurer to insurer.
If you are identified as a smoker by your insurer, they might ask you to take a few medical tests to ascertain your health before deciding on the premium, especially if you are over 40 years of age, or you want a higher sum insured amount.
What Constitutes a Smoker for Insurance Purposes?
According to a report, 34.6% of adults in India are smokers, and more use tobacco in other ways. But what constitutes smoking or tobacco use, according to insurers?
When applying for a health insurance policy, insurers usually ask two important questions.
- Do you smoke?
- Have you smoked in the past six months?
A smoker is anyone who consumes tobacco in any form, including cigarettes, cigars, snuff, or chewing tobacco. And, if someone smokes more than four times a week and has done so for at least six months, then they are classified as a smoker.
Since insurers look at daily tobacco consumption as an indicator, those who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day will usually face higher loading on their health insurance premiums.
Why is it Important to Disclose Smoking to Your Insurer?
It is very important to be honest and disclose your smoking habits to your insurer. Misrepresenting the facts can lead to your claims being rejected, and might also be considered insurance fraud and lead to legal troubles.
Also, be honest about how often you smoke, as even declaring of smoking 2 cigarettes a day, while you actually smoke 6 cigarettes a day can pose issues. Medical tests at the time of claims can detect nicotine in blood and urine tests, and can quickly lead to claim rejection.
Thus, if you are a smoker or even if you have given up smoking long ago, don’t hesitate to disclose it. The higher premium is worth it compared to large hospital bills that can wipe out your savings.
Why Smoking Increases Your Health Insurance Premium?
Smoking is one of the major factors that affect your health insurance premium, since it can cause a number of health problems like lung infections, cancer and other critical illnesses. This makes smokers a higher risk, as these health issues might lead to a higher chance of them making health insurance claims in the future. Thus, they will be charged a higher premium.
In fact, the health insurance premiums for smokers can be almost double those for non-smokers. For example, say 25-year-old non-smoker pays ₹5,577/year for a sum insured of ₹1 crore, then a smoker of the same age would pay around ₹9,270/year for the same amount.
What About Smokers with Pre-Existing Health Conditions?
In case an individual who smokes has a pre-existing condition (like diabetes and hypertension), whether it is related to their smoking or otherwise, insurers might ask for further medical tests to reveal any health complications.
Then they will decide the premium based on the severity of these health conditions. Additionally, there will be a waiting period of 1-4 years before these pre-existing diseases are covered. While this period is the same for smokers and non-smokers, some conditions might be excluded for smokers.
What are the Health Hazards of Smoking?
Regular or heavy smoking can lead to an increased risk of several health issues, including:
- Respiratory complications and diseases
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Heart diseases
- Cancer (especially oral and lung cancer)
- Pregnancy-related complications
Thus, the increased risk of these illnesses makes it more important for smokers to buy health insurance so that they have financial protection.
What Can Smokers do to Reduce their Health Insurance Premiums?
Since smokers face higher premiums for their health insurance, there are a few things they can do to change this.
- Quit Smoking – if you quit smoking for at least 2 years during the policy period, health insurers may consider this and lower your premiums accordingly.
- Joining a Smoking Cessation Program – if you are unable to quit on your own, many health insurance companies offer, or have tie-ups with smoking cessation programs that can help you do so. Again, you must show at least 2 years without smoking before your premium changes.
- Look at Different Insurance Companies – since there is a large population of smokers in India, there are a few health insurance companies that offer policies to them with comparatively lower premium amounts. You can research and look for such companies.
Thus, it can be seen that smokers must be prepared to pay a higher amount for health insurance, as they have greater health risks. But, while being a smoker will increase the cost of your health insurance premium, it should not stop you from opting for a health policy.
Smokers may face many serious health issues that make it essential for them to have this financial protection in case of a medical emergency.
Disclaimer: It is advised to disclose smoking habits in the proposal form. The Insurance company reserves the right to accept or reject the health insurance policy.