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Insurance Article

Smokers Avoid Health Cover

February 11 2016
Quit smoking to start saving

Tobacco use is no reason to skip health insurance

According to an all India survey conducted by Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies – Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, there are around 206 million adult users of smokeless tobacco in India, a figure that is much higher than the 111.2 million tobacco smokers. As per an ICICI Lombard survey, work-related stress (35%) and peer pressure (38%) are the leading causes for taking up smoking. These figures are dire especially when it comes to availing health insurance.

Why Are Smokers Reluctant to Buy Health Insurance?

57% smokers in India do not have a health insurance, as per a recent survey of 1011 participants by ICICI Lombard. In such a case, the smoker is not covered for any unfortunate health eventualities. This is far more grievous if the smoker happens to be the only working member and provider in his family. The smoker and their family are not covered for any medical eventualities.

Smokers generally believe that their insurer will consider all arising future ailments to be a result of their unhealthy habit and reject claims. This is the most common fear stopping them from purchasing health insurance. Such apprehensions are of course unfounded.

Smoking Effects on Premium

Insurance companies define a smoker as anyone who uses any form of nicotine. This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and even nicotine patches or gum.

Being a smoker or having pre-existing ailments are not direct grounds for rejection by your health insurer. However, if smoking leads to further health complications, the insurer might be apprehensive about approving your application.

It is no surprise that smoking is the leading cause for cancer and several other serious diseases. Smoking is also the leading factor for 80% of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Additionally, smokers are 16 times more prone to the risk of heart attack. This liability is not lost on insurers. They charge higher premiums to nullify the effects of raised health risks and shorter life expectancy.

The increased premiums for smokers are not at a flat rate. Different levels of smokers have proportionate rates of premium, with a current chronic smoker however paying the highest. The rate of premium for smokers can be as much as 56% higher than that for non-smokers. Some companies offer incentives and discounts to non-smokers to discourage the habit and resulting liability.

Mandatory Disclosure

Higher premiums are no reason to hide your smoking habit in your policy documents. This amounts to fraud. Your insurer is entitled to reject related claims if any information provided is found to be untrue. Moreover, insurers do not issue policies without a medical test beyond a certain limit of sum insured.

Quitting Is Easier On Your Pocket

Your premium payouts will significantly decrease if you quit smoking for reasons beyond medical condition. Insurers consider smokers who quit as ‘non-smokers’, subject to a certain period of abstinence.

Quitting is the best option to eliminate overpaying your health premium. It is easier on your pocket, kinder to your health, and increases your chances of availing coverage for ailments and diseases under health insurance.

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