Smoking and the Cost of Your Health Insurance

Should smokers who participate in the federal employee health plan pay more for health insurance than non-smokers?

Should federal employees who smoke pay more for their health insurance premiums?

Smoking and the cost of health insurance is a significant issue for employers. As any federal employee knows, the cost of health insurance for federal employees has been rising rapidly. Private companies that provide health insurance for employees are getting desperate for ways to cut back on their health insurance costs without eliminating their health insurance benefits.

Smokers in America today face more discrimination than ever. Here are a few examples of how our society has changed.

  • No longer do the major movie stars speak from the big silver screen looking sophisticated and charming while dangling a lit cigarette from their lips or hand.
  • Modern entertainers no longer croon to the audience while holding a lit cigarette to enhance their image with fans (think Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin)
  • Smokers don’t live as long so they don’t collect as much in the way of Social Security or retirement benefits.
  • As many as 6000 companies will no longer hire permanent, full-time employees who smoke.
  • Some companies are firing employees who smoke because of health costs, loss of productivity from health problems and social conflicts.
  • Federal conference rooms used to have large, clear brown ashtrays in the middle of the conference tables to accomodate smokers with ashtrays spread around the outside of the room to accomodate those attending the meeting but not sitting at the table.
  • The cost of buying cigarettes is going up cutting down on money a smoker has for other expenses. A typical smoker may pay as much as $1400 for a pack-a-day smoking habit
  • Those who smoke are often seen outside of office buildings where they must go to smoke–even in cold climates or in very hot climates

There is little doubt that the potential health costs for smokers are higher than for non-smokers. There is probably no exact figure on which everyone would agree about the cost of smoking-related health issues. As a rough guide, it is about $75 billion per year according to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

That is why some companies are charging smokers more money for their health insurance benefits. On the other hand, smoking is addictive. Some people who smoke would like to quit but have not been able to overcome the habit.

And, while there are various smoking cessation benefits available for federal employees who smoke, there is no financial penalty (at least as far as the cost of health insurance is concerned) when it comes to paying for health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefit program.

We would like to know your opinion. Should those participating in the federal health insurance plan pay more for health insurance than those who do not smoke?

View the results from this survey here.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47