Almost one-third of Americans think overweight and obese people should pay more for their health insurance, and more than half believe smokers should pay higher premiums, according to a Thomson Reuters-National Public Radio poll.
The findings are timely. A growing number of employers are penalizing employees for bad health habits by requiring them to pitch in more toward the premium for employer-sponsored health insurance plans, and an even greater number are offering financial incentives for participating in wellness programs.
About 31 percent of respondents in the survey say overweight or obese individuals should pay more than people in a healthy weight range. An even greater share--58.5 percent--say smokers should pay more for health insurance.
These views are more common among people with higher incomes and education levels.
When asked about factors driving up health care costs, respondents named smoking (28.5 percent), obesity (27.6 percent) and stress (25.2 percent) as the top cost drivers. These factors beat out alcohol use (11.2 percent) and workplace safety (7.5 percent).
About 11 percent said yes when asked if they thought it was acceptable to deny employment to overweight or obese individuals.
About 85 percent believe individuals who practice healthy habits--such as exercise, healthy eating, and eschewing tobacco--should receive a discount on their health insurance premiums.
"Discounts for good behaviors are always more popular than surcharges for bad behaviors, but the science of behavioral economics teaches us that loss avoidance is three times more powerful than receiving a gain," Dr. Raymond Fabius, chief medical officer for the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters, said in a press statement. "Before anyone rushes to create behavior-based plans, though, it's important to look at the data. Our research shows that obesity is a much higher driver of health care costs than smoking."