World No Tobacco Day: Impact of Tobacco Consumption on Health Insurance

No tobacco day

Today is World No-Tobacco Day, and amidst all the chaos of the current pandemic, let us not ignore the implications of tobacco consumption and how it affects one’s health and finances. It continues to be one of the major health risks across the world despite continuous efforts and increased awareness. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over eight million deaths happen every year due to tobacco consumption.

No tobacco dayCOVID-19 has enforced many rules and strict regulations worldwide. Globally, and in India, people are following lockdowns, strict orders on hygiene checks and wearing of masks etc. One of the drawbacks we are currently facing is that many people take it lightly, which leads to larger issues. For instance, spitting in public is now a punishable offence under the strict Disaster Management Act in India. Unfortunately, it is not taken seriously by the people, and the same can be said of smoking. Adding to the risk, WHO has also advised that smokers are more vulnerable to coronavirus infection risk than non-smokers.

Tobacco consumption may lead not only to cancer but also to stroke, peripheral arterial disease, high blood pressure and other diseases related to the lungs. Even though everybody is aware of the health consequences and higher expenses related to treatments, it continues to be a casual habit and lifestyle choice for many. Smoking is harmful to health, and it will be heavier on your pocket, too.

There is a common notion that people who use tobacco cannot get health insurance. But the fact is, many health insurance companies do provide coverage to smokers; however, the terms and conditions are different when compared to non-smokers. Health insurance is provided for all despite different lifestyle choices. However, multiple factors must be taken care of that need to be looked at closely. Insurers define a smoker as someone who uses nicotine in any form. Here are some tips to help you understand things to be aware of while signing in for a policy:

• One should never assume that their health insurance claim will be rejected. A claim will only be rejected when it is not disclosed during the time of onboarding.
• Always keep the insurer aware of the changes in lifestyle. For instance, if you were a non-smoker during the time of initially buying a health insurance policy, and you inculcate the habit over time.
• Be honest with the insurer while signing up. It is important to provide information related to existing illness or health issues due to smoking or otherwise as it will have an implication on your insurance during the claim.

The following points highlight how nicotine intake will impact your health insurance:
• Premiums and underwriting norms differ for different insurance providers based on their terms and conditions. Some companies charge loading charges and exclusions for smokers while others do not.
• Smokers usually pay a higher premium due to an additional loading of premium
• Most health policies have standard exclusion of oral/lung cancer resulting out of tobacco consumption
• In case of oral cancers, tobacco chewing becomes a declinable reason (mostly practised by domestic companies)
• The claim settlement process remains the same for smokers and non-smokers

Being a smoker makes more prone to lifestyle diseases than non-smokers. Hence, it only makes health insurance more expensive but also harms the overall financial health. Apart from the impact on the health there is a financial impact as there is a cost on the daily consumption, burden of disease that can lead to financial crisis. Also, sudden cessation or using inappropriate methods may lead to depression, anxiety and other psychological effects.

Views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of Dr.Sudha Reddy – HEAD – Health and Travel – Digit Insurance.

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