American Morning

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July 11th, 2011
05:11 AM ET

Question of the Day: Is it fair to ask employees who smoke to pay more for health insurance?

On July 1, Macy’s joined the growing list of businesses that have started charging smokers steeper premiums for health coverage, asking its employees who smoke to pay $420 more per year in coverage than their non-smoking colleagues.

As health care costs soar and a struggling economy keeps corporate earnings under pressure, more and more business leaders are taking a hard look at ways to control health insurance costs and grappling with the possibility of imposing higher premiums on smokers.

American Morning wants to know: Is it fair to ask employees who smoke to pay more for health insurance?

Post your response here. Your answer could be included in this morning's broadcast.

Filed under: AM Asks
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Cory

    Absolutely not. I think we're making our way down a slippery slope with this one. I agree that the habit is dangerous and deadly, but will we also start raising rates for overweight people, people who drink, people with family histories of illness (i.e. Cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc.)? Many people drive their cars on a daily basis and car accidents kill/injure millions a year as well, so can we raise those rates? Singling out one group over the countless others that can be considered is a bit unethical.

    July 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  2. Melody

    That's a little hypocritical unless they include obesity, health issues due to an unhealthy diet, alcohol, etc… and what if you engage in risky behavior such as extreme sports and such? A smoker has to pay more than the 300 pound person eating McDonald's everyday? This makes no sense. They are killing themselves just as fast.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  3. Cameron

    I agree that smokers should pay more for health insurance than non-smokers. I also agree that people with unhealthy lifestyles, such as obesity, should be required to pay more. Too often, we live a lifestyle where we don't want to pay for the potentially harmful choices we make; this is true for health insurance, bailouts, etc. If we want to get back on track as a country, we each need to start being held accountable for the choices we make.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  4. Melissa W

    I believe it is fare to charge high health care premiums for those that smoke. I say this as I light up a cigarette. That being said I think that if they are charged more that treatment should be available for those that seek it.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  5. Rita

    It is downright discrimination. And when *they* start charging fat people more just because they refuse to push away from the table, there will be a much larger public outcry.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  6. Tod

    Only if the same applies to people who drink(liver diseases, accidents, etc) or eat like pigs(diabetes, cancer, colon problems, etc). Those who live a mundane life with no external risks are what the insurance companies want. Truthfully, I think it is ridiculous that we have so many people out there trying to CONTROL us. It's all about money, not enjoying your short time here on earth. What about workers who have to work in conditions that can cause cancer???
    Instead, since the insurance companies are making so much money, they should focus on a cure for cancer, this would reduce the cost of caner treatment in general. My bet is the cure has already been made, but pharmaceutical companies do not want to give up all the money they make from all the other treatments. They were close to a cure/vaccine 20 years ago, what happened? There is to much money being made from people getting cancer and if we defeat cancer, life expectancies go up which would increase our population at a rate higher than the world can support them. My bet is that only the richest will get the cure or any life lengthening treatments like gene therapy. I do not like to be suspicious, but I have seen to much not to be.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  7. PJ

    Yes-it isa personal choice to start a smoking addiction which has proven to impact your health. A smoker should contribute to that consequence in health care cost increases.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  8. frank flores


    July 11, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  9. Pat

    And make sure to increase the rates on people with speeding tickets, or have a BMI of 25 or more, or who choose to work in high risk industries, or any other risk taking activity which requires a person to leave their house and make choices for themself. Make sure no one has freedom to choose and welcome Big Brother with open arms.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  10. frank flores

    Yes,smokers should pay more.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  11. David Berry

    YES,, smokers should pay more and so should people who are over weight.

    July 11, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  12. Justin

    It is fair to charge smokers more as they are putting themselves at a greater risk. The difference between smoking and other types of poor choices is, as your story on second-hand smoke shows, that smokers are exposing others to a risk they did not choose.

    July 11, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  13. Kent R Wilkinson

    Yes, Smokers and Consumers of Alcohol should pay more. The two greatest killers in – Kent R Wilkinson – FB

    July 11, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  14. mark graves

    Hey here is a thought. How about paying insurance according to use.

    July 11, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  15. 711

    Yes, but only if every employee who is more than 15 lbs. overweight is also charged the higher premium. Look at the stats......obesity racks up more in health care costs than smoking does. Smokers tend to die younger and more quickly from various health problems than those who are overweight. Obesity is the highest cost to the health care industry now and will only get worse in the future. More overweight people under 40 than over. I wish CNN would do a story on this. The stats are truely shocking.

    July 11, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  16. Kent R Wilkinson

    Yes, Smokers and Consumers of alcohol should pay more. The two greatest killers in our society. FB – Kent R Wilkinson

    July 11, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  17. Barbara Riley

    Why not then require people who drive dangerously, or drink too much, or eat unhealthfully (remember Supersize Me), to also pay more? Nearly all of us engage in behaviors that could add to overall costs of insurance.

    July 11, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  18. sean

    Interesting study shows that if all persons stopped smoking and maintianed healty weights it would actually increase the costs of health care in the long run. Life expectancy would increase and that is where the most of our health care costs go! So should we increase health care for the ones that are healthy because they will live longer and cost more in the long run??
    Study done in Netherlands:
    Despite the higher annual costs of the obese and smoking cohorts, the healthy-living cohort incurs highest lifetime costs, due to its higher life expectancy, as shown in Table 1. Furthermore, the greatest differences in health-care costs are not caused by smoking- and obesity-related diseases, but by the other, unrelated, diseases that occur as life-years are gained (Table 1). Therefore, successful prevention of obesity and smoking would result in lower health-care costs in the short run (assuming no costs of prevention), but in the long run they would result in higher costs.

    July 11, 2011 at 6:46 am |
    • Tod

      Excellent Sean, I agree with that statement.

      July 11, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  19. Dixie Dyer

    Yes, it probably is fair . . . but ONLY if they also ask others with health risks to pay more such as those that are obese or with a high BMI or those who have more than one alcoholic drink a day as those folks also have higher health risks effecting the heart, kidneys and liver. There are lots of lifestyle habits that greatly affect health costs besides smoking.

    July 11, 2011 at 6:43 am |
  20. Andrew

    No. It would only be fair if all lifestyle choices are accounted for and charged accordingly. How 'bout eveyone paying for sports injurys, obesity, sedentaryness, old age...the list can go on until most everyone is included. Insurance is about pooling risk. What healthcare providers charge needs to be regulated; like a utility.

    July 11, 2011 at 6:43 am |
  21. Elizabeth Faulk

    Yes, smoking should be a consideration in setting a person's insurance rate. So should gross obesity. By contrast people who live healthy lives should receive a discount.


    July 11, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  22. Rob Byer

    Absolutely, yes. Otherwise, the rest of us have to pay more. Anyone who smokes today has done so by choice, and the choice is so stupid that smokers should have to pay the price for it.

    July 11, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  23. Betty Ann Sudbury

    Absolutely! It's been well documented for decades that smoking increases your risk for, and contributes to heart disease, lung disease and cancer. As an ER nurse for 30 years I saw this first hand. Why should people who are looking after their health by making the proper choices regarding diet and activity pay more for those that don't? Life insurance is based on lifestyle, why shouldn't health insurance?

    July 11, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  24. Vic LeBlanc

    Yes, of course... just like it is fair for spoiled rich yuppie brats to pay their fair share for Healthcare Costs.

    Single Payer NOW!

    July 11, 2011 at 6:14 am |