Vaping has been highly criticized due to its negative health effects, especially as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cracked down on banning flavored e-cigarette products. As vaping use has increased among adolescents and young adults over the past decade, experts are seeing the impact this habit has on costs within the health insurance industry.

It’s Costly to Not Report Vaping

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurers can impose tobacco surcharges for members who report a recent history of smoking or vaping. These added fees can make premiums up to 50% higher for such members, which has led many people to omit this information when communicating with their insurers. Smoking in any form is associated with a higher risk of health conditions such as stroke, cancer, and heart disease. With people needing more care for these conditions and not enough members paying the related fees, this has led insurance premiums to steadily rise for both smoking and non-smoking members.

Inaccurate reporting of smoking history has been a problem for years, and Fierce Healthcare conducted a dated study that magnified this disparity. In 2016, they found that 17% of adults in Idaho are considered smokers, but only 3% of those who received marketplace health insurance reported this same data and paid the surcharge.

Is It Just Teens?

There are similar trends in other states. In fact, a recent study found that 52% of all smokers and vapers have not disclosed this information to their health insurers. The choice to not report a smoking habit has spanned generations, with individuals over the age of 60 not reporting more than any other generation.

While this can be detrimental to cost savings for all, insurers can take several steps to mitigate the impact of inaccurate smoking history from their members.

How to Help

  1. Offer incentives for members who take advantage of smoking cessation programs.
  2. Provide generalized educational materials centered around building a healthy lifestyle for all members.
  3. Compile community resources to provide members who are interested in quitting smoking.
  4. Encourage clinicians to regularly screen patients about lifestyle habits such as smoking.
  5. Implement retroactive surcharges for members who are found to be misrepresenting tobacco use.