• Impact of smoking on health insurance premiums

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    By Siva | 30 Sep 2023

    The harmful effects of smoking on one’s health is a well-established fact by now. Smoking has been linked to various health hazards, and it increases the overall cost of healthcare in a country. Health insurance companies dislike smokers for the most obvious reason that they are prone to various health hazards. However, smokers do have their rights. It is a complete myth to say that smokers are not eligible for any kind of health insurance. In India, health insurance companies offer coverage for smokers but the terms and conditions may not be the same as that of non-smokers.

    Health hazards attributed to smoking

    Before we look at the terms and conditions specific to smokers, let’s have a look at the common health hazards attributed to smoking. The most obvious health risk of smoking is lung cancer. Cigarettes contain different kinds of carcinogens that are directly attributed to cancer. In addition to this, smokers are also prone to the following health ailments:

    • Stroke
    • Heart diseases
    • Asthma and other respiratory complications
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    • Hypertension
    • Emphysema

    Smoking is also indirectly linked to many other health ailments. Considering the risk of various health ailments, most insurers find it risky to provide coverage for smokers under a regular health insurance plan.

    Cost of insurance for smokers

    Most insurers in the market charge higher premiums for smokers compared to non-smokers. As noted, the cost of insurance is bound to be higher for smokers as they might face various illnesses due to their smoking habits. When health insurance companies charge the same price for smokers and non-smokers, non-smokers may bear the brunt of additional costs related to claims made by smokers. This is the main reason why insurance companies charge a higher price for smokers. The higher premium charged by insurers is a way to offset their overall costs incurred during a claim settlement.

    How smokers can find low cost health insurance

    It goes without saying that smokers are bound to pay higher premiums for health insurance compared to non-smokers. However, there are ways in which smokers can minimize their premiums without lying about their smoking habits.

    • Extensive research: The health insurance market in India has over 29 players competing to increase their customer base. Most policies are priced competitively to attract customers with different backgrounds. In this scenario, look for a company that offers flexible options for smokers. Even if you end up paying higher premiums, make sure that the premium amount fits within your budget.
    • Start young: If you are a long-time smoker, your health conditions are bound to get worse as you age. Smokers with poor health condition will have a hard time getting into a comprehensive medical insurance plan. Your best bet in this case is to start young when you are healthy and active. When you enter a policy at a young age, you may get higher benefits in the form of cumulative bonus and other loyalty rewards.
    • Healthy lifestyle: If you are a long-time smoker trying to quit the habit, there is still a good chance for you get into a solid health insurance plan. Most insurers offer rewards for following a healthy lifestyle. There are health insurance plans where the lifestyle activities of policyholders are monitored. You must prove to your insurer that you are following a healthy lifestyle.

    Why is it a good idea to disclose your smoking habits

    During the time of signing up for a policy, your insurer will ask you about your smoking habits. If you have smoked for more than four times a week and continued this for six months, you are termed as a smoker. Lying about your smoking habits to take advantage of the lower premiums is considered to be insurance fraud. Even if you don’t face any problems at the time of signing up, you are likely to face issues during the time of a claim.

    If the condition for which you are making a claim is found to be a result of smoking, the insurer will not pay the settlement amount. Insurers investigate each and every claim before paying the claim settlement amount. If something is found to be irregular, they may not pay for a claim. Even worse, the insurer might even cancel the policy. If you wish to avoid this, it is better to come clean and disclose your smoking habits. The worst thing that could happen when you come clean is that you will end up paying a little extra on premium charges. However, concealing the smoking habit altogether will lead to lot of legal troubles.

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