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Survey: Americans Back Higher Health Insurance Rates for Smokers

Fewer support higher rates for significantly overweight people (August 12)

In a new Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans say health insurance companies would be justified in setting higher rates for people who smoke. This is on par with the 60 percent seen in 2011, but down modestly from 65% in 2003. Fewer respondents (41 percent) support setting higher rates for those who are significantly overweight, but this is among the higher support levels that Gallup has found for this policy in the last decade.

These data, from Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits survey, conducted July 10–14, have particular relevance because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes a provision allowing health insurance companies to charge higher rates for smokers.

While a majority of Americans support setting higher health insurance rates for smokers, less than half say overweight Americans deserve the same treatment. This may reflect the prevalence of these issues in the U.S.: while 45 percent of Americans in Gallup’s July Consumption Habits survey say they are overweight, only 19 percent say that they currently smoke.

Not surprisingly, Americans who smoke or are overweight are less likely to support punitive insurance rates that would affect them personally. Twenty-eight percent of Americans who have smoked in the last week feel that higher insurance rates for smokers are justified, compared with 65% of those who have not smoked.

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

Source: Gallup; August 12, 2013.

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