Health Insurance for Smokers

Smoking is one of the biggest plagues in India. As per a 2016-17 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), India has nearly 267 million tobacco users. Despite the health risks, a lot of smokers do not have health insurance. In fact, most people believe in the myth that smokers cannot buy health insurance. Read on to know if this myth holds any truth.

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      Can Smokers Get Health Insurance?

      YES!

      Smokers are eligible to buy health insurance. Several insurance companies in India offer medical insurance to smokers. In fact, the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has also directed insurance companies to offer health plans to smokers.

      According to insurance providers, a person who smokes cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipes or who snuffs or chews tobacco more than four times a week is considered a smoker. Moreover, a person who has smoked over four times a week in the last six months is also considered a smoker.

      Do Smokers Pay a Higher Health Insurance Premium?

      Yes. People who smoke pay a higher premium for the same health insurance policy than a non-smoker. The simple reason behind this is the fact that people who smoke are more prone to various health conditions as compared to non-smokers. Naturally, smokers are a bigger liability for any insurance company as they are more likely to raise a claim.

      However, the difference in the premium amount depends on the number of cigarettes a person smokes in a day or a week. The higher is the number of cigarettes consumed, the higher will be the premium charged by the insurance company. For example, a person who smokes 7 cigarettes will be charged a higher premium than a person who consumes about 3 cigarettes a day.

      But if the insurance company realises that the health of a smoker is deteriorating due to his/her smoking habits, the premiums may increase substantially. Only in very severe cases, where major health complications result from heavy smoking, the insurance company may deny issuing a policy.

      This is the reason why smokers have to undergo a pre-policy medical check-up before they can purchase a health policy for smoking. It helps the insurance company to determine the right premium amount.

      Why Health Insurance is a Necessity for Smokers and Not a Choice?

      As per the 2016-17 survey by CDC, active and passive smoking kills about 1.2 million people in India every year. This gives quite a graphic idea of the kind of adverse impact smoking has on the human body. To name a few, smoking is known to cause the following:

      • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
      • Lung Cancer
      • Respiratory Diseases and Complications
      • Emphysema
      • Heart diseases
      • Oral Cancer
      • Stroke
      • Pregnancy Complications
      • Osteoporosis

      The diseases caused by smoking require long-term treatment, which can go on for years. They have the potential to exhaust a person’s lifelong savings in a few months. Besides, the rising inflation is only going to increase the cost of medical treatment in the years to come.

      The only way to protect a person’s hard-earned savings and yet stay financially prepared for any smoking-led medical complications is to buy health insurance for smokers.

      Benefits of Health Insurance for Smokers

      Take a look at some of the top benefits of health insurance for smokers:

      • Financial Support to Cover Medical Expenses

        The biggest benefit of buying health insurance plans is the financial support offered by the insurance company in case of a medical emergency. The policy will ensure that the insurance company pays for the medical expenses of the smoker in case he/she gets injured in an accident or is diagnosed with an illness.

      • Cashless Hospitalization Facilities

        Medical insurance also provides the benefit of cashless hospitalization to insured smokers across the country. All that’s required is to get admitted to a network hospital of the insurance company to avail cashless treatment.

      • Free Health Check-ups

        Most health plans offer free preventive health check-up facilities to the insured irrespective of the smoking habits. While some plans may offer this facility annually, others provide it after a block of claim-free years.

      • Tax Benefits

        Smokers can also avail tax benefits on the premium paid to buy a health policy under Section 80D of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

      FAQs

      • Q1. Should you declare smoking in health insurance?

        Ans: Yes. You must disclose your smoking habits to your insurance company at the time of buying a mediclaim policy, even if you are an occasional smoker. If you hide it or give incorrect information, the insurance company may reject your claims in future on grounds of fraud or misinformation. As a result, you will also lose the money paid as premiums.
      • Q2. Can smokers with pre-existing diseases buy health insurance?

        Ans: Yes. People with pre-existing diseases, like diabetes and high BP, who also smoke are eligible to buy a health insurance policy. However, they may be asked to undergo a pre-acceptance medical test and may be charged a higher premium. Besides, pre-existing diseases will only be covered after a waiting period of 2 to 4 years.
      • Q3. Why is health insurance more expensive for smokers?

        Ans: Health insurance plans are more expensive for smokers because they are more prone to major diseases like cancer, stroke, respiratory complications and breathing issues as compared to a non-smoker. Since smokers have a higher chance of raising a claim, insurance companies charge a higher premium to them.
      • Q4. What if you lie about smoking on health insurance?

        Ans: If you lie about smoking while buying your health insurance policy, you will give the insurance company the right to reject your claim in the future. The insurer can easily deny your claims for providing false information and you may also land yourself into legal trouble.
      • Q5. How smokers can reduce their health insurance premiums?

        Ans: People who smoke can reduce their health insurance premiums through one of the following ways:
        • By opting for a higher deductible
        • By purchasing a family floater plan
        • By comparing various policies online on Policybazaar.com
        • By buying a multi-year health policy

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