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Recent Poll Shows Americans Support Higher Insurance Rates Based on Lifestyle

| Labor & Workplace

Prior to the recent health care showdown on Capitol Hill, Gallup released a new poll showing that Americans back higher insurance rates for individuals with certain lifestyles over others. Specifically, the poll showed that 59% of Americans believe it would be ok for an insurer to charge smokers higher rates, while only 37% of Americans said the same of those who are obese. This has been a consistent trend since the start of Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll.

Interestingly, the percentages of those who believe that insurers should charge smokers and those who are overweight more has declined steadily since 2003, where 65% of respondents believed charging smokers more was justified and 43% of respondents felt the same about those who are obese. Gallup’s results show this decline has largely been partisan, as Republicans and Independent voters maintain similar views to those expressed in 2003 but Democrats have come to find it significantly less justifiable. While Americans may feel that it makes sense to force smokers to payer higher insurance premiums, Gallup points to a Yale School of Public Health study that showed a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allowed insurers to set higher rates for smokers ultimately discouraged smokers from obtaining insurance rather than quit smoking – an outcome that certainly wasn’t intended.

While we have no idea what kind of health care legislation Washington may one day produce, this Gallup poll contains intriguing information on how Americans view health care and health care cost. It’s clear fixing our health care system is not an easy undertaking but here in North Carolina, we already have the framework to make North Carolina a top state for health care value. As the Roadmap to Value Driven Health outlines, our business community can no longer sit on the sidelines if we expect to install transformational change. We must work with our allies on the health care supply chain to improve quality and cost across the state. We’ve already begun the conversations and started the ground work to bring value-driven health care to North Carolina and I look forward to sharing more information with you about this effort in the future.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber