- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2013

Nearly six in 10 Americans say health insurance providers would be justified in charging higher rates for smokers, according to a new poll.

Gallup found 58 percent of respondents think tobacco users should face higher premiums, while less than half — 41 percent — say significantly overweight people should face higher rates.

The polling company said their findings are relevant to the debate over President Obama’s health care law.

The Affordable Care Act allows states to charge up to 50 percent more for smokers who refuse to enter a cessation program, with advocates saying it could encourage smokers to ditch the habit, and would make sure they end up paying the higher costs for their health needs.

Yet several states and the District of Columbia have decided to charge smokers the same rates as non-smokers.

Those places argue that the purpose of the health law is to insure all Americans and that includes smokers, who are disproportionately old, poor or minorities — all populations that the bill is trying to make sure get coverage.

Gallup’s findings on the topic are on par with results in 2011 and slightly down from 2003, when 65 percent said higher rates for smokers would be justified.

However, “Americans who smoke or are overweight are less likely to support punitive insurance rates that would affect them personally,” Gallup said.

“Twenty-eight percent of Americans who have smoked in the last week feel that higher insurance rates for smokers are justified, compared with 65 percent of those who have not smoked,” it said.

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