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Health Insurance For Smokers - All You Need to Know

Team AckoFeb 2, 2023

The Global Youth Tobacco Survey by the World Health Organization says that ten lakh deaths occur in India due to smoking. Despite the government's efforts and awareness campaigns, people suffer from many health issues from smoking. Here, health insurance for smokers can provide financial assistance in case of covered medical treatment. In this article, we shed light on things you need to know about health insurance for smokers.

Health Insurance For Smokers

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Health insurance for smokers

Smokers might be under the misconception that they are not eligible to apply for health insurance. Not true! Smokers are eligible to apply for health insurance just like non-smokers provided they meet the criteria set by insurers. For example, clearing the pre-policy check-up requirements.

Why should smokers get health insurance?

Smoking causes critical illnesses. Smokers are prone to respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and chronic pulmonary diseases. As health insurance offers financial protection in case of health-related mishaps, smokers can find it useful. 

Importance and benefits of buying health insurance for smokers

Buying a health policy has several benefits. The following are some of them.

  1. Financial support: The financial load can be incredibly stressful during times of illness. It can be difficult to cover healthcare expenses out of your funds given their growing costs. Thus, it is crucial to prepare for medical emergencies. The highest benefit of health insurance for smokers is the financial support during a medical emergency as the insurance company takes care of the medical expenses when the smoker becomes ill. 

  2. Free health check-Ups: Usually, you must undergo pre-medical tests in order to qualify for health insurance because they play a significant role in evaluating your eligibility. Additionally, the cost of a full-body check-up at a medical facility can cost thousands of rupees. This is an added stress on the finances. However, you can get a free health check-up once a year (depending upon the term of your health insurance policy) to determine your current health status. 

  3. Tax benefits: Section 80D of the Income Tax Act 1961 allows one to claim tax exemption benefits while buying health insurance plans. The tax benefit can range from Rs. 25,000 to more than Rs. 1 lakh, depending upon the type of health insurance plan and the number of members insured under the policy. Note that the tax calculations are subject to changes. 

Tobacco use and health insurance premiums

If your smoking or other forms of tobacco consumption is higher, your insurance premiums might become expensive. The following are facts you should know before applying for health insurance.

  • Smoking e-cigarettes or other forms of vaporisers also fall within the definition of a smoker.

  • Insurers never ask questions like "How many cigarettes do you smoke in a day?" However, you may have to take medical tests. The test’s results will help the insurance companies to decide on the premium coverage.

How does smoking affect your health insurance premium amount?

Smoking affects your health insurance premium in the following ways.

  • The cost of health insurance is high for frequent smokers as the risk of insuring them is high for the insurer.

  • The health insurance premiums of smokers are primarily fixed based on five parameters. They are location, age, number of dependents, plan, and tobacco use.

  • The difference in policy costs depends on the frequency of smoking. If the buyer smokes many cigarettes in a day or week, they pay higher. 

Also, read: Health Insurance for COVID-19

The cost of health insurance for smokers vs non-smokers

As per the National Library of Medicine, the health insurance cost for smokers is 30% to 40% higher than that of non-smokers. Because of their higher health risks, smokers must pay a higher premium for health insurance. 

Also, according to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), an insurance buyer is categorised as a smoker if they have consumed tobacco in the last 12 years from the date of application. 

Smoking will raise the cost of your health insurance premium, but you shouldn't let that deter you from purchasing a policy. Smokers may have a variety of major health problems, making this financial security crucial for them in the event of a medical emergency.

How do insurance companies know if you smoke?

Technically, a smoker is someone who consumes nicotine in any form, according to health insurance providers. 

  • Insurance companies rely on medical exams to identify habitual smokers and calculate the cost of coverage. Nicotine traces can be found in the saliva, hair, urine, and blood.

  • The insurance companies have the authority to investigate your smoking habits. Your medical records (urine and blood tests) will reveal your smoking habits. 

  • Being dishonest in your enrollment questions will put you in legal trouble. 

What if you are a smoker with existing health problems?

Suppose a smoker has a pre-existing ailment (diabetes or hypertension). In that case, whether or not it is related to their smoking habit, insurers may request further medical testing to disclose any health consequences. The premium will then be determined based on the severity of these health issues. Furthermore, a 1 to 4 year waiting period may be imposed before these pre-existing conditions are covered under health insurance. This period is the same for smokers and nonsmokers. However, smokers may have to pay more premium than non-smokers.

What happens if you lie about smoking on health insurance applications?

Do not hide your tobacco use details from the insurance provider. Disclose your smoking habits while applying for the insurance policy. Hiding such information may cause legal trouble. The insurance companies find your tobacco consumption habits through the medical examinations they conduct before issuing the insurance. The insurance company will reject your application if you lie about your smoking habits.

How to improve health and lower health insurance premiums

If you cannot quit on your own, you can consider joining smoking cessation programmes that can assist you. Note that you must demonstrate at least two years of no smoking before your premium changes. With rehab or without rehab, if you quit smoking for at least 2 years during the policy term, health insurers may take this into account and cut your premiums accordingly.

Quit smoking to live healthily and save on health insurance premium cost

Smokers are more prone to health complications. The serious ill effects of smoking are Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and many more. Thus, the cost of insuring smokers is high. You can reduce this cost of insurance by lessening your smoking frequency. The best way to buy an economical health insurance policy is to reduce smoking. This not only improves your finances but also your health.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers on health insurance premiums for smokers.

Should I declare that "I smoke" while buying health insurance?

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Yes. While buying insurance, smokers should make a formal assertion about their habits. Even an occasional smoker should make this declaration. Insurance companies have the power to reject the applications of persons giving incorrect information or those hiding details. They can also dismiss applications of persons making fraudulent or false claims.

What if I started smoking after getting health insurance?

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The policy remains active throughout its premium period, irrespective of changes in the smoking habits of the buyer.

How do health insurance companies know if you smoke?

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The insurance companies conduct basic medical tests to learn about the smoking habits of the buyer. They are basic blood and urine tests used to determine the nicotine level in the body.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on industry experience and several secondary sources on the internet, and is subject to changes. 

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