Smoke 'em if you got 'em...
April 10, 2010 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Mrs. Spyder and I are looking to get new (less expensive) health insurance. The last time we signed up for health insurance, I was a half a pack a day smoker. I quit four years ago. But I still smoke once in a while. How do I present this to the new insurance people?

Like I said, I quit four years ago. But about every four or five months I have a stress freak-out and go buy a pack of cigarettes. Sometimes I smoke two or three, sometimes I smoke the whole pack. Going into a new insurance situation, I know they generally ask if you smoked, for how long, how much, when you quit, etc. Do I need to volunteer this information? What happens if I don't? What are the repercussions down the road if I do get cancer or something that could be smoking related?
posted by Spyder's Game to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First, decide if you want to continue smoking long-term or if there is a way to get a prescription for a quit smoking pill and do the work to finally quit once and for all. Or, be honest with them and do a smoking cessation program to lower your premium that would be verifiable by a drug test.
posted by parmanparman at 12:39 PM on April 10, 2010

Starting on September 23, prohibitions on health insurance rescission (terminating coverage for plan members who fall ill) are much stricter. However, rescission is still allowed in cases of fraud. Lying to an insurance company about whether of not you smoke, how much, or when you quit, is fraud. If they don't ask, you don't need to volunteer it, but if they ask and you lie, they can likely still rescind your coverage at any time, including if you get sick with something unrelated to your smoking.
posted by decathecting at 12:42 PM on April 10, 2010

Insurance companies do not want to lose. Until health care reform goes into effect (specifically the provision that prohibits cancellation of policies and the provision prohibiting questions about pre-existing conditions), my understanding is that if the insurance company doesn't want to pay for any expensive treatment (related to smoking or not) and they can find any proof that you have lied on the application, they will cancel your insurance and possibly even charge you for any amounts they have already paid out in claims on your behalf for any medical conditions or treatment. There was just an episode on The Good Wife where the insurance company found a picture on someone's Facebook account showing that person smoking and used it to justify cancelling insurance for the entire family (claiming fraud on application) as a way not to pay for expensive fetal surgery on t heir unborn child. Best bet: Quit smoking!
posted by Lylo at 12:47 PM on April 10, 2010

It sounds like you all are saying that if they ask if I smoked in the past, the answer is yes. No problem there. I'll tell them how much and for how long.

If they ask if I quit, I guess you are saying I should say yes, and cite the last time that I smoked (hopefully six months or so). But if, six months after signing the application, I have two or three cigarettes, they could potentially revoke my policy (claiming fraud) if they find out?
posted by Spyder's Game at 1:02 PM on April 10, 2010

Tell the truth. You are a smoker. Up until four years ago you smoked half a pack a day, but about four years ago you cut back dramatically (You did not quit. People who quit never smoke.) Currently you smoke between 2 and 24(?) cigarettes every four or five months.

You do not need to volunteer this information, however, since they will surely ask if you smoke, you won't be volunteering it, you'll just be answering their question. Its not worth the risk of being left with no insurance.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:05 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the applications I've seen, the question isn't "Are you a smoker?" The question is usually something like "During the past 12 months, have you used tobacco?" You should answer yes, even if you've only smoked a couple of cigarettes.
posted by decathecting at 1:41 PM on April 10, 2010

I have been shopping for health insurance for my husband, separate from my group plan. I am a lawyer, and licensed life insurance agent. In my state, all apps I have seen ask if he has smoked or ingested any nicotine product in X no. months. My view is to treat this strictly - if they ask for 6 months, and it has been 6 months plus 1 day, I will say "no". That will be honest. Nothing further needed. I read the language of the question and answer it exactly.

Exactly as decathecting says - the question asks "have you used in X months" and not "are you a smoker". Being "a smoker" is complete, utter nonsense. Either you have smoked in the listed time frame, or not. Construction of the sentence is key.
posted by bunnycup at 7:50 PM on April 10, 2010

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