How Will Taking Up Smoking Affect My Health Insurance Claim?

When you first signed your health insurance policy, you were asked if you used tobacco products or not. If you were a smoker at the time and checked yes, your premium went up. If you hadn’t used tobacco products for over a year and checked no, the resulting premium was a bit lower.

The reasoning behind this policy is, of course, smokers are more likely to develop health problems and the higher premiums offsets the insurance company’s risk. But what if you had answered honestly that you did not use tobacco products at the time of signing, but decided to start smoking a year later?

The answer lies in the fine print of your health insurance policy, but technically your premiums would not be affected. In general, health insurance policies take into account everything that affects your health at the time of signing, not your current health- learn more at HBF. Because you weren’t a smoker at that time, it is technically true that your newfound smoking habit shouldn’t affect your current premium or any future claims.

However, many people lie about their smoking habits on health insurance forms. One study found that two-thirds of people would lie on their health insurance forms if it meant they would get a better rate. Even if you answered the smoking question truthfully the first time, insurance companies have good reason to doubt your honesty if you file a claim later from a smoking-related illness.

If you develop lung cancer or another illness commonly attributed to cigarette smoking, the underwriter in charge of your claim will likely look to see how you answered questions about your tobacco use when you first signed the policy. If it turns out that you said you are not a smoker, this will set some alarm bells off. Because it is the underwriter’s job to properly investigate claims and save the company money, they are going to start looking for ways to deny your claim.

It makes sense from the insurance company’s perspective. Most people begin smoking during their teenage years, and don’t just spontaneously start smoking in their twenties or thirties. And the insurance company is well aware that plenty of people lie about their smoking habits on the forms. Why should the insurance company pay for your claim now when you haven’t paid the proper premium based on your risk category?

Even if you were honest to begin with, you can see how bad the case against you appears. How would you prove definitively that you weren’t a smoker at the time of signing? Would you be able to provide a specific date on which you started your new habit?

Filing a claim for an illness that may or may not be attributable to your smoking suddenly becomes an uphill battle. So, while it is technically true to the letter of your insurance policy that new smokers’ claims shouldn’t be affected, don’t expect that filing a claim will be easy once the insurance company finds out you’re a smoker.