20 April 2012

Why Quitting Smoking Will Lower Your Health Premiums

Guest post by Sara Mackey

Although obesity is now the more expensive condition in the United States, generating additional medical expenses per individual of $1,750 to $5,500 annually, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death both in the U.S. and the world. At minimum, a smoker will have an additional $1,300 a year in medical expenses, a factor insurance companies do not ignore in building individual risk profiles. Applicants who want to find cheap health insurance online or via any other source will be in a far better price-negotiating position from the beginning if they are non-smokers, or can prove they have stopped smoking.

How Expensive is the Smoking Addiction?
Every year more than 440,000 Americans die from smoking-related illnesses ranging from lung cancer to hypertension and heart disease. This includes people who succumb to the effects of second-hand smoke -- usually the smoker's closest family members. In 2004, the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion determined that cigarette smoke is comprised of 4,800 separate chemicals. Of those, 69 are known to cause cancer.

Smoker in the United States Start Young
Approximately 3 million adolescents smoke, with some 3,000 young people picking up their first cigarette every single day. Of those first-time smokers, a thousand will die from a smoking-related illness, the vast majority before the age of 70. Women are at a much higher risk for blood clots and strokes if they both smoke and take oral contraceptives. Also, one high-risk behavior tends to lead to another. Teenagers who smoke are three times more likely to consume alcoholic beverages, eight times more likely to smoke marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine.

Insurance is About Risk Profiling
Although the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has made it possible for adult children to remain on their parents' health policies up to age 26, and exclusions for pre-existing conditions are being phased out, the full effect of the law won't be in place until 2014. That is assuming, however, that the Supreme Court does not strike the law down in its entirely as a consequence of its current review of the statute's individual health insurance mandate.

For at least the next two years, insurance will not only be "business as usual" for the most part, it will be expensive business. In 2011, health insurance premiums went up 8-9 percent across the boards for both private insurance and job-based coverage. In fact, many employers, hard hit by the recession, have eliminated or cut back on the health benefits they provide for employees.

Preventive Care Model is Gaining Traction
As a means to control health insurance expenses, and to curb spiraling healthcare costs in general, there is an increasing emphasis on preventive rather than reactive health care. No single personal habit will elevate premiums more than checking the box that says, "smoker." The surest route to more affordable health insurance is to be a non-smoker. The added benefit of that choice? Better health and most likely, a longer life.