Charging smokers more for insurance

A majority of Americans think insurance companies would be justified in charging higher rates for people who smoke, according to a new Gallup poll.

The data – from Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits survey conducted July 10-14 – showed 58 percent of Americans think insurance companies are justified to charge smokers more for insurance.

The recent numbers are on par with the 60 percent who said it was justified in 2011, but down from the 65 percent who supported it in 2003.

During the same survey, only 41 percent supported setting higher rates for those who are significantly overweight.

According to Gallup, the differences may reflect the prevalence of the two issues in the U.S.: while 45 percent of Americans in the July survey said they’re overweight, 19 percent said they currently smoke.

Americans who smoke or who are overweight are less likely to support higher insurance rates that would affect them personally, according to Gallup.

Twenty-eight percent of Americans who have smoked in the last week feel that higher insurance rates for smokers are justified, compared with 65 percent of those who have not smoked.

Similarly, 34 percent of Americans who say they are overweight support setting higher health insurance rates for those who are overweight, contrasted with 47 percent among those who consider their weight to be about right, according to Gallup.

The survey also found Republicans (47 percent) are more likely than Democrats (37 percent) to say it’s justifiable to charger higher health insurance rates for people who are significantly overweight.

Republicans (62 percent) are also more supportive of setting higher rates for smokers than Democrats (56 percent).

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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