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Poll: higher insurance premiums for smokers but not the overweight

By Ed Adamczyk
A Gallup Inc. poll released Thursday indicates that the majority of Americans support higher insurance premium rates for smokers, but not for the significantly overweight. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
A Gallup Inc. poll released Thursday indicates that the majority of Americans support higher insurance premium rates for smokers, but not for the significantly overweight. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- A Gallup Inc. poll released Thursday said a majority of Americans back higher insurance premiums for smokers but not for the overweight.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said insurers would be justified in setting higher health insurance rates for smokers, but only 37 percent applied the same view for the significantly overweight. The findings are similar to those reported the first time Gallup asked the question, in 2003; 65 percent agreed a rate hike would be justifiable for smokers, and 43 percent felt the same about the significant overweight.

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In 2003, 47 percent of Democrats approved of higher rates for the overweight. In Thursday's poll, only 27 percent of Democrats agree. There was no significant change in opinion among Republicans or independents.

Among those who smoke, 42 percent said they believed smokers should pay higher rates, compared to 63 percent of non-smokers. The figures for those who categorized themselves as overweight, underweight or "about right" were essentially identical on the question of whether the overweight should pay more.

The poll noted that the overall insurance pool may not benefit from selective increases in higher insurance rates. It noted that a study by the Yale School of Public Health found a provision in the Affordable Care Act, allowing insurers to set higher rates for smokers, discouraged many smokers from signing up for insurance and did not prompt them to quit.

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The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted from July 5 to July 9 with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the United States. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus four percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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