- Date : 27/03/2020
- Read: 6 mins
Smoking is hazardous for health, but so are its repercussions on your family. Can a smoker get health insurance? If so, how different is it from a non-smoker’s?
One of the biggest prevailing myths of health insurance in India today is that a smoker cannot avail of health insurance. Smoking and health insurance might not seem to go hand-in-hand, but contrary to popular belief, smokers can (and do) get health insurance.
Yes, smokers are more prone to lifestyle diseases than non-smokers, which poses a risk to their life and increases the premium amount. Keeping this in mind, insurance firms provide health coverage to smokers at a slightly higher cost. If you are a smoker, this should not deter you from safeguarding the future of your family – and your health.
Health insurance for smokers
The term ‘smoker’, as defined by health insurance companies, is a person who consumes nicotine in any form. When applying for a health insurance policy, you will be asked questions like: Do you smoke? Have you consumed tobacco in the last 6 months? Have you contracted any lifestyle diseases due to smoking? Health insurance companies take precautionary medical checks to reduce their risk. The reason is obvious: health hazards. Cigarettes contain different types of carcinogens that can cause diseases like cancer, heart attack, asthma, and chronic pulmonary disorder.
If you comply with the questions and declare smoking as a habit in your insurance form, you will have to undergo a medical test. If you are tempted to lie, bear in mind that traces of nicotine can be detected in a smoker’s urine, blood, saliva, and hair, depending on the frequency of consumption. If you are a smoker, it is, therefore, advisable, to be honest with your health insurance provider and update them on any lifestyle changes. Not doing so can render your policy void and put any claims under dispute.
Based on the medical test results, age, and the value assured, a plan is offered. Health insurance providers also factor in existing illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. A non-smoker with no past medical history can avail of health insurance without obstacles, but so can an occasional smoker who’s medically fit. If you consume nicotine only occasionally and indulge in a good amount of physical exercise, you might be able to prove your fitness and ease the process of getting a health insurance cover. On the other hand, a regular smoker who consumes a pack or two a day and leads a sedentary life could be asked to pay an additional premium.
Premiums for smokers
While health insurance providers offer similar health insurance plans to both smokers and non-smokers, they fix a premium amount after considering a smoker’s medical status. The cost of insurance will be higher if the smoker’s age is above 40 and if they consume tobacco regularly. Some health insurance providers insist on a medical test to determine any specific illness and exclude its cover from the general plan.
Chain smokers and tobacco addicts, on the other hand, can be denied a health insurance policy outright as per the company’s discretion.
Every health insurance company works differently. While some levy a higher premium for smokers to cover additional health concerns, others might not. Since the prices of health insurance policies in India are very competitive, it is best to do your research and pick a flexible plan. Also, if you are a regular smoker, it is advisable to look for the best health insurance plan with a premium amount within your budget.
If you happen to be a long-time smoker who’s thinking of giving up tobacco, enrolling in a rehabilitation program to quit the habit can reduce health insurance premiums. However, you will need to stay clean for at least two years before an insurance company deems you medically fit and drops your premium to that of a non-smoker.
Why smokers need health insurance
Smokers often choose to live with the fear of rejection rather than approach a health insurance company. With this fear in mind, they may also hide the fact that they smoke when applying. This is an unnecessary obstacle smokers create for themselves. A health check-up is a prerequisite for most health insurance plans. Lying will only complicate the process, either when the test results are out or while filing a claim.
Being a smoker increases the risk of contracting life-threatening diseases such as stroke, hypertension, cancer, and pulmonary illnesses. Be honest about your lifestyle and insure yourself early from illnesses that are known to be triggered by smoking.
A health insurance company can refuse a claim when a non-disclosed illness caused by smoking is discovered to be the basis for the claim. Though the pre-defined waiting period of 2–4 years before an illness is discovered is the same for both smokers and non-smokers, the premium for smokers is higher. In all this, even if there is a higher premium for smokers and the waiting period is longer, a cover for long hospital bills can help your savings from being depleted.
Since all smokers do not have the same habits, health insurance providers have listed them into three broad categories:
- Preferred smoker: Someone who smokes but has a clean medical record. Since they are fit, their premium is only as much as (or close to) that of non-smokers.
- Typical smoker: Someone who smokes and has minor health issues. The premium for these smokers will be higher than that for preferred smokers.
- Table-rated smoker: Someone who is a long-time smoker and suffers from a health condition due to the habit. For such customers, the premium will be the highest as health concerns are already prevalent. Health insurance companies do this to minimise their risk.
India has a sizeable number of smokers, so health insurance companies have made exceptions in their policies to offer coverage to all. If you are a smoker, you should state it upfront when purchasing a policy, as the information is crucial during a claim. As a smoker, you should consider buying the best health insurance within your budget. It secures your family in case of a sudden illness, reduces extra expenditure, and makes sure you are financially solvent in times of need. Take a look at these 8 health insurance jargons explained for a better understanding of what the policy and process entails.