Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Health Insurance Drug Test?
April 4, 2006 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Am I likely to be required to take a drug test to get health insurance?

I am trying to get health insurance for the first time. I applied online, and didn't hear back right away. Then I got a letter saying that they wanted me to take a physical within the next two weeks. This seems reasonable since I haven't had health insurance before, but now I'm concerned that they will ask me to take a drug test while I'm there.

Also, there was one question on the application about having used "chewing tobacco, smoking tobacco, or marijuana" in the last six months, and I instinctively said no since I don't use tobacco and by habit don't tend to admit to illegal activities. Would it have been better to just say yes? Would I still get insurance? Oddly, I don't remember any questions about any other types of drug use.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
 
This is individual insurance with what carrier in what state?
posted by MarkAnd at 8:08 AM on April 4, 2006


I have been insured in many states by many carriers (not NC though). I have never been asked for a drug test by an insurance carrier.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:38 AM on April 4, 2006


My suspicion is that they won't do a drug test, but I have no idea. It's possible that the physical is only a paramed exam (with someone taking your vitals and asking you questions about your health history). I'd say the first thing you should do is call the 800 number they give and ask them what the physical entails. If you're paranoid (and there's no harm in being paranoid), tell them that you haven't applied yet and are just curious about the process.

If you do get approved, there is some small danger in having lied on your insurance application. Honestly, I'm having trouble imagining a scenario in which you would get caught, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.
posted by MarkAnd at 8:39 AM on April 4, 2006


The other suggestion I have is to call the North Carolina Department of Insurance (1-800-546-5664) and ask if individual health insurance carriers are allowed to use a drug test as a basis for rejecting an insurance application. There may well be a regulation on what the insurer is allowed to do.
posted by MarkAnd at 8:45 AM on April 4, 2006


I've been told by several responsible adults that even if you aren't a frequent pot smoker, but that you do it on occasion, it's best to admit to it. If you are caught lying to the insurance company (ex: you get injured, sent to the ER, they do a drug test and it comes back positive), the insurance company can revoke your coverage.

And, FWIW, I have BCBS of Florida and I never had to take a drug test.
posted by Flamingo at 8:47 AM on April 4, 2006


I had BCBS here in VA for several years, no request for a physical or a drug test, though I did meet the broker in person - your physical may be just as cursory.

I don't concur about admitting to the pot smoking. It's likely grounds for refusal and will then be in their records if you ever try to apply again. While falsifying your information to the company is indeed grounds for immediate termination and refusal of benefits, it's unlikely you'll be receiving treatment on a condition that's a result of your pot smoking. Consequently the chances of them getting wind of this are pretty slim.

and - meta.
posted by phearlez at 9:32 AM on April 4, 2006


Deniability. Any incidental positive can be argued as incidental, extenuating, incorrect, what have you. No mitigating an official admission on the books.
posted by cortex at 9:41 AM on April 4, 2006


Also, if the question is marijuana use in the last six months, and you somehow get caught in a year with marijuana, then there's still no way to prove that you lied on the insurance form. They'd have to have caught you with pot in the past to show you lied.
posted by occhiblu at 9:57 AM on April 4, 2006


There is no way to know if they will test you or not, short of asking them (not recommended). They are allowed to test you as a requirement for coverage. In my opinion, they will not. It is not worth their money.

What they will not do (or very close to never do) is randomly test you at some future point. It is now or never, so to speak.
posted by deadfather at 10:02 AM on April 4, 2006


We just got a private insurance policy and didn't have to have any drug test. Or medical exam of any kind, for that matter.

The tobacco/marijuana use question is more about your cancer risk than anything else. I've determined that, if you are not currently being treated for it (or have not been treated for it in the past few years) you are better off not copping to it on the form. They are simply looking for things to either exclude from coverage or hike your rates for.

Good luck on getting the insurance. We found getting an affordable family policy to be a horrible ordeal.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:06 AM on April 4, 2006


They will ask you to pee in a cup and they will take blood. They're only doing this to test for drugs. If you've smoked some weed, make sure to abstain for 9-14 days before giving anyone any body fluids.
posted by Hanover Phist at 10:14 AM on April 4, 2006


Hanover Phist, that wasn't the question.
posted by deadfather at 10:18 AM on April 4, 2006


Am I likely to be required to take a drug test to get health insurance?

Yes.

Better deadfather?
posted by Hanover Phist at 10:41 AM on April 4, 2006


I'm in North Carolina too; I've had health insurance twice; I have never been asked to get a drug test. I seriously doubt you will be either. Don't worry about it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:05 AM on April 4, 2006


The tobacco/marijuana use question is more about your cancer risk than anything else. I've determined that, if you are not currently being treated for it (or have not been treated for it in the past few years) you are better off not copping to it on the form. They are simply looking for things to either exclude from coverage or hike your rates for.

huh. I've got a friend who smokes but didn't mention it on his health app -- he says the doctor asks every time he goes in for an appointment whether he smokes or not (apparently it's policy). Is this something to worry about if say, he were to suddenly come down with cancer or heart disease or some sort of possibly smoking related illness? Would they try to drop him immediately?
posted by fishfucker at 12:29 PM on April 4, 2006


Hanover Phist, your yes seemed less than implied since it was going against all the nos above. Can you provide some reasoning behind your response? My answer comes from my general experience in the health insurance field.

While I still think a drug test is unlikely, I should point out that it is more likely to occur when getting health insurance on your own, rather than through your employer, who can pool risk.

To be clear, there isn't all that much actuarial data on marijuana's effects on health care claims, at least compared to the reams of data on tobacco. If they gave you a test, that'd be their principal goal--catching people who lie about smoking tobacco. That's not to say that they wouldn't be perfectly willing to deny you coverage based on drug use--issuing single coverage plans isn't exactly a cash cow, and they're looking for any reason to limit their risk. If they've got your pee-pee, you can bet they're going to do a thorough job. If they've got your blood, too, they're probably going to a full health screening, looking for various diseases and other risk factors.

All that said, I really don't think they're going to want either. But Hanover Phist provides clear incentive to stop partaking and schedule this thing as far out as possible. Why take a chance?
posted by deadfather at 12:37 PM on April 4, 2006


Is this something to worry about if say, he were to suddenly come down with cancer or heart disease or some sort of possibly smoking related illness? Would they try to drop him immediately?

That's more an issue for life insurance, which very often contests claims if it smells something fishy, than health insurance, which tends to be too busy to notice things like this. Although, every day brings more cases to court.

The answer to your question is probably not, but more and more likely going forward. Personally, I would be more worried about, you know, getting a smoking-related illness.
posted by deadfather at 12:44 PM on April 4, 2006


Some years ago, a female friend declared herself a smoker (tobacco only) on a life insurance app. She forgot that she paid extra premium for that until long after she quit smoking. She had to submit a urine test to get the extra payment removed. I do not know if cigarette smoking would make a difference in a health insurance rate.
Admitting to a probably illegal activity (sigh) is a problem. Until pot is legalized - and taxed like tobacco and alcohol - your best advice is probably to show up clean just in case of tests.
posted by Cranberry at 1:03 PM on April 4, 2006


Hanover Phist, your yes seemed less than implied since it was going against all the nos above. Can you provide some reasoning behind your response? My answer comes from my general experience in the health insurance field.

without derailing the thread anymore than I already have... I miss read the question and thought we were talking about LIFE insurance. My bad. When applying for Life insurance, everyone I know, including myself, were tested for drugs. I'm like "Oh boy, I can't wait to see what my cholesterol level is like" to the nurse while she's poking me with needles and she replies "*sigh* we're just checking for drugs".
posted by Hanover Phist at 1:14 PM on April 4, 2006


Yeah, I'm a BCBS subscriber in Arizona and no, no blood test or drug test at all. I've been previously insured, but not within a certain period of time (it was more than a year since it lapsed, I think) and they had no problem looking at my health records and putting me on.
posted by disillusioned at 2:40 PM on April 4, 2006


« Older I am looking for suggestions a...   |  A coworker is interested in br... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.