Can my health insurer discriminate against smokers?

UPDATED: Jan 9, 2012

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Can my health insurer discriminate against smokers?

My company health insurance is going to charge an additional $260 year for smokers. I am 31 and in perfect physical condition. I have never taken a sick day in the 2 years I have worked at my current employer. I exercise more than 90% of the people that I work with. I rarely use my insurance at all. They have no charges for people who are overweight, and no qualifications for drug users. My company is self-insured. Can this really be legal?

Asked on January 9, 2012 under Insurance Law, Washington


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In the private business sector with respect to insurance premiums and coverage, an insurance carrier has the right to charge smokers under its issued policies an additional amount per year. The reason is that medical evidence for years has shown major health risks that smokers have compared to non-smokers.

Due to such risks, smokers have greater chances of expensive health issues compared to non-smokers. As a result, the health insurance industry allocates a higher premium to smokers compared to non-smokers which is entirely proper.

This is apparently the practice of your company's health insurance carrier. There is nothing wrong with what it charges between smokers and non-smokers.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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