Why health insurance for smokers should matter to us all

The Australian Government is consulting about the future of private health insurance.

Roughly half of us have private health insurance and at the moment the premiums are the same for everyone and based on the level of coverage we choose. Our health risks, history or behaviours do not make a difference to the cost. This is called community rating – the risk is assessed and costed on a whole community level, not on our individual risk.

Private health insurers are keen to get involved with a wider range of services and appear to be in favour of linking our premiums to our risk of getting ill, like in the USA. That’s why we have seen and heard the headline that smokers should be paying more for their health insurance. But it is not just smokers that would be affected: anyone with a higher risk factor than the average person of the same age could end up paying much higher premiums, under such a system. A person diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, for example.

Below is the specific question in the Government’s survey.

Under the fourth option, “according to a person’s health or their health risk factors” all manner of ‘risks’ – family history, personal health history, level of fitness or activity, results of genetic testing – could be considered.

 The Federal Government is consulting the public on this issue until the 4th December. If you care about what premiums you or anyone with Lynch syndrome might end up paying under such a regime, click this link and tell them what you think. It’s ten minutes that might make a lifetime of difference to you and yours.