How Does Vaping Affect Your Insurance Premiums?
How the grey area surrounding e-cigarette regulation affects your insurance premiums
The fact that tobacco cigarette users have to pay much higher health insurance premiums isn't new or surprising information, especially for longtime smokers who've been footing the bill for years. However, smokers are now seeing their premiums rise even higher as the Affordable Care Act enters its second year. The average smoker will pay up to 50% more than a non-smoker for the same plan due to a new "tobacco surcharge." Unfortunately, smokers won't even find relief purchasing private health insurance.
Higher insurance rates for those who regularly smoke tobacco cigarettes is directly sourced to their health side effects—including an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, to name a few.
The rise in tobacco-related health conditions, the increasing price of tobacco products and now the higher health insurance premiums have all combined to help boost the popularity of cheaper smoking alternatives like e-cigarettes.
However, while the general population may see e-smoking as a better alternative to tobacco cigarettes, does this mean that your life and health insurance providers believe the same?
Life Insurance and E-Cigarettes
The Munich American Reassurance Company recently gave a survey to 150 life insurance companies. Of these 150, 9 out of 10 felt that electronic and tobacco cigarettes are basically the same thing. More specifically, they felt that both should be treated equally when it comes to insurance charges.
More than likely, a good deal of this mindset is due to the uncertain nature of e-cigarette policies and regulations. Here are three reasons why e-cigarettes are a major concern for insurers:
- E-cigarettes are comparatively new.
Although e-cigarettes are now more than 8 years old, that period of time is like the blink of an eye for insurance companies, who often make policies that span decades. In terms of long-term benefits, e-cigarettes just haven't been around long enough to know whether they can be used as a smoking cessation tool or if they are 100% healthy. More research and studies must be done before insurers will warm up to the idea.
- Controversy breeds uncertainty.
The newness of e-smoking contributes to the uncertainty and controversy surrounding the devices. The biggest controversies about e-cigarettes are whether they can be effective tools to help smokers quit smoking and whether the existence of e-cigarettes will turn kids and non-smokers into smokers. Insurers see this controversy as risk.
- E-cigarettes are still unregulated.
The FDA has yet to make a decision about how to regulate and tax e-cigarettes. As of last year, the agency proposed to label e-cigarettes the same way they do tobacco cigarettes. Nevertheless, no official timeline has been released as to when any changes would be made. Again, to insurers, this equals risk.
The takeaway: Don't expect insurance companies to change their stance on e-cigarettes all that much until the FDA releases an official position regarding regulation. Until then, insurers will play it safe.
Health Insurance and E-Smoking
Likewise, health insurance companies will be cautious when it comes to e-cigarettes and likely wait on FDA regulations before making a final decision. Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, however, insurers are only allowed to inquire about an applicant's age, where they live, the number of people in their family and tobacco use.
The good news is that e-smokers have the upper hand when it comes to answering these health questions. For instance, when asked if they use tobacco products, an e-cigarette user can answer truthfully that they don't since e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco. Moreover, since the FDA hasn't begun regulating e-cigarettes yet, they aren't officially categorized as a smoking cessation product.
The debate over the definition of a smoker will continue to dictate these kinds of decisions until the FDA follows through with their regulations. Hopefully, they will decide that e-cigarettes are different from tobacco cigarettes. Until then, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can choose to charge vapers a surcharge for using their e-cigarettes, if vapers see fit to disclose the information.
If you're on the fence about switching to e-cigarettes, you can browse our site for more information regarding our e-smoking products. Also, feel free to peruse our blog and knowledge center at your leisure.