Smokers Get Hit with Extra Fee on Health Insurance

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Some smokers are paying even more for health insurance thanks to a smoking surcharge from employers.

An increasing number of companies are docking workers anywhere from $30 to $60 a month, and that includes non-smokers with dependents who light up too.

Lya Coulter doesn’t smoke, but agrees that you should pay more for choices that affect your health.

“I think if that is your choice, then you can pay for it,” Coulter said.

A survey done by Hewitt Associates reveals that the trend is growing. Nearly half of 600 large U.S. employers around the country either do, or plan to penalize employees who engage in unhealthy behavior.

Pat Mione is an insurance expert in Houston. She says the idea behind turning up the heat on smokers is simple.

“From a claims perspective, if you can get people to get healthier, you will have an impact on premiums, on claims -- and that’s the driver,” Mione said.

Since smoking is considered a behavior and not a medical condition, companies don’t have to butt out.

Ronnie Spears is a smoker and understands the added cost, but wonders what could be next.

“I think it’s good, but you know after you open up the floodgates, where do you stop at?” Spears said.

For now, smokers are taking all the heat, just in time for the 2011 open enrollment period.

If you are not a smoker, experts warn that you should read the fine print on your paperwork. Many companies are requiring employees to “opt out” of the program.