It goes without saying that smokers always have to pay more for health insurance. The reason for that is because smoking in itself is a health hazard. Smokers are always at risk of suffering strokes, cancer or even heart disease. With ObamaCare (Affordable Care Act) now in the picture, premiums have gone even higher for smokers. Some insurers will even charge 50% more to people who smoke tobacco cigarettes. The million dollar question is: Should you still pay higher rates even after switching to e-cigs?
According to Cyntia Cabrera who is the executive director of an association popularly known as SFATA (Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association), no vaper should be treated the same as a tobacco smoker. The reasoning behind this is simply because electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco. Plain and simple! This association strongly disagrees with any arguments or policies that categorise electronic cigarette users together with tobacco smokers. Cynthia also points out that electronic cigarettes together with any other vapour products don’t contain tar, tobacco or any one of the carcinogens that are found in tobacco cigarettes.
A good number of vapers will be hesitant when making insurance applications thanks to the likelihood of there being surcharges. To see if a consumer should pay the extra charges, they are asked two questions by the insurer. The first one is if they use any tobacco products and the second one is if they are using any smoking cessation products. Vapers need to give both these questions some thought before answering. It goes without saying that e-cigs do not contain any tobacco so it is easy to give an emphatic “no” as the answer to the first question. However, when it comes to the second question, things can be a bit tricky. According to the FDA, e-cigs are not in the list of smoking cessation products. However, a good number of people use them for smoking cessation. This means that everybody who has completely quit smoking but is still using e-cigs can comfortably give “no” as the answer to both questions. After all, there is no way the insurer will know that you use e-cigs unless you volunteer the information.
With this in mind, a big fraction of e-cig users can now save thousands on their health insurance. However, there are some who feel that this could cause their insurers to later accuse them of dishonesty in the application when they learn about e-cig use. This doubt is cleared by the American Cancer Society that very clearly states that insurers don’t have a definitive policy to follow when their customer uses electronic cigarettes. They mention that Affordable Care Act doesn’t specify the use of e-cigs for cessation. This act also doesn’t qualify e-cig users for tobacco surcharges.
With this in mind, insurance companies are coming up with their own rules for governing the manner in which they will handle e-cig users. Carrie McLean, who is eHealth’s director of customer care matters, mentions that the rate that will be applied will depend on the manner in which a consumer will answer questions in the application. A consumer who mentions that they use electronic cigarettes may be uprated and treated like a cigarette smoker. However, since no insurance company currently asks directly if the consumer uses electronic cigarettes, vapers can easily avoid surcharges by flying under the radar by simply avoiding the topic.
The difficulty comes in because companies don’t currently ask specifically about electronic cigarettes. This leaves the consumers with the power to define how high electronic cigarettes are in the ladder. With thousands of dollars at stake, it goes without saying that most e-cig users will not call themselves tobacco users. This decision is a big one and it comes with significant financial repercussions. According to ABC News, a non-smoker who is about 40 year old with a $35,000 income pays an annual premium of about $3850. Tobacco smokers who have the same income and age will have to pay about $1400 more.
Ultimately, it all boils down to the manner in which individual e-cig consumers interpret and answer application questions. This will continue until there is some legal regulation through official definition by the FDA. When this happens, insurers will either be forced to treat e-cig users as non-smokers or to define e-cigs as tobacco products and require vapers to incur the extra costs.
How are you handling the situation? Are you paying the extra charges by defining e-cigs as tobacco products? What do you think about the omission of information about the usage of electronic cigarettes?