Every year, people decide to quit smoking. This is a very popular New Year’s Resolution. Many health insurance companies have started covering the cost of smoking cessation programs, and offering a lower premium rate to non-smokers. These incentives don’t make it any easier to quit smoking.
About 20% of adults are smokers. Seven out of ten smokers say that they want to quit. Untold numbers of smokers are currently struggling to keep their New Year’s Resolution, and finally achieve their goal of quitting smoking. I have heard it said that it is harder to quit using nicotine than it is to quit using most other types of addictive drugs.
According to Kaiser Family Foundation, who does an annual survey of employer-sponsored health benefits, two-thirds of businesses who have 200 or more employees offer health insurance plans that include coverage of smoking cessation programs. Around 31% of smaller businesses offer these types of programs to their employees through their health insurance coverage.
A survey of employer-sponsored health plans was done by Mercer in 2011. They found that 24% of large companies, (those who had more than 20,000 employees), vary the cost of their premiums based on whether or not an employee is a smoker. They charge higher premium rates to the employees who smoke. 12% of smaller employers, (those who had 500 or more workers), are also charging smokers more for their health insurance.
Usually, before a company starts charging employees who smoke a higher rate for health insurance, they offer free smoking-cessation services. In other words, they give their workers a chance to quit smoking before they get stuck with the higher rate.
New health insurance plans, (those that were purchased after 2010), are required to cover the cost of smoking cessation programs. Medicaid programs are required to offer free tobacco-cessation coverage for all pregnant women.
Of course, there are also plenty of health related reasons that would influence a person to quit smoking. It is the number one cause of preventable death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking-related illnesses include: lung cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
It is good that health insurance companies are starting to cover the cost of smoking-cessation programs. This could make it easier for smokers who want to quit to find some help in their quest to finally kick the habit. However, it still isn’t going to be easy for someone who has been smoking for a decade or more to be able to stop.
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