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Lawmakers Could Revisit Smoking’s Effect On Insurance Rates

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Photo: Raul Lieberwirth (Flickr)

The discussion could affect how group insurance rates are considered in Indiana.

Indiana‘s statewide smoking ban is just a couple of months old, but legislators may revisit the issue next year. The Indiana Chamber supported the smoking ban, and has set a goal of lowering smoking rates over the next 13 years.

One idea that has been floated is allowing employers to charge higher insurance premiums or co-pays for people who smoke or have other unhealthy habits. Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott says the union would fight that idea if it is proposed. She warns it would go against the whole idea of group insurance.

“The whole point is that everybody in the group. It‘s a rate for the risk of the group as a whole,” Guyott says. “And there‘s certainly concern if you start segmenting out one group of people because you don‘t like something about it, or because they‘re more expensive, you‘re really destroying the whole concept.”

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar says the state‘s high proportion of smokers translates to higher health costs for employers. The Chamber‘s policy committee will not decide its legislative agenda until November, and Brinegar says he’s not sure how a majority of employers feel on the issue.

“I‘m not sure where our organization‘s going to end up on that, but it begs the question of, if you know that a number of employers won‘t hire you because you smoke, then that may create an additional impetus to quit,” he says.

The Chamber is also considering whether to ask legislators to close a loophole in the smoke-free workplace law which took effect July 1. Some union contracts include so-called smoking shacks — bus hut-like structures on company property which appear to be exempt from the ban because they are open on one side.

Neither the Chamber nor the AFL-CIO has taken a stand on that issue yet.

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