The answer could be “yes” in the eyes of many insurance companies and could end up costing you more for premiums.
In an effort to get smokers to drop the habit, insurance companies are taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act bylaw that allows them to charge smokers and other tobacco product users more for the cost of their healthcare. These charges for smokers could be upwards of 50 percent more than a non-smoker pays for their health insurance policy.
But where does this leave e-cigarette users (known as vapers)?
As you may well know, e-cigarettes are battery-operated nicotine inhalers. They have a rechargeable lithium battery, a cartridge (known as a cartomizer) and an LED that simulates the lit end of a tobacco cigarette. These devices contain no tobacco (and cause no combustion); however, the FDA plans to regulate electronic cigarettes in the same ways they do tobacco cigarettes.
Rather than help insurance companies, a change in FDA ruling may end up complicating things further as there is no clear definition under the law of what constitutes a smoker.
Insurance companies could simply lump e-cigarettes with tobacco products—resulting in vapers being subject to higher premiums just like cigarette smokers. On the other hand, insurance companies could decide to cover the cost of e-cigarettes—treating them as a means to help people quit smoking. However, this move seems unlikely since the Affordable Care Act does not specify this action, nor does the FDA allow e-cigarettes to be labeled as such. Moreover, insurance companies could also simply choose to ignore e-cigarettes altogether.
Any changes that will be made on the part of insurance companies probably will not go into effect until the official FDA ruling about e-cigarettes. After that, insurance companies could change any of their current policies to reflect FDA rulings. Until then, most insurance companies claim they have too little experience with e-cigarettes to have an official position.
One problem vapers face, according to Carrie McLean, director of customer care for eHealth (an online health insurance brokerage), is that if they ask “is vaping an e-cig considered tobacco use” insurance agents are obliged to add on a smoking surcharge to their insurance premium. One reason for this is that customers are not asked specifically what kind of tobacco product they use—just whether they use them at all.
Having a clear definition as to whether vaping is considered smoking is important because the insurance premium price difference can be significant.
It’s an important question to settle, as the price differential can be significant.
A typical insurance plan for a 40-year-old non-smoker who has a $35,000 income would cost $3,857 a year after a $532 tax credit. This plan would rise to $5,254 if they’re labeled as a smoker according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s exchange subsidy calculator. The smoker rate increase may end up being greater than the 50 percent the ACA allows since the government tax credits apply to base premiums—not the tobacco surcharge.
This leaves vapers facing higher insurance premiums and it has them fuming.
Eversmoke.com—along with our blog and knowledge center—can allow you to learn about the exciting world of vaping and e-cigarettes. In addition, you can find information regarding e-cigarette laws and regulations. It is important that vapers are familiar with laws regarding e-cigarettes, and we aim to provide them with all the knowledge you need.