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What Americans think about health insurance & hiring practices [infographic]

Smokers and those who are significantly overweight should pay more for health insurance, Americans say.

In a recent survey from Gallup, the majority (58 percent) of Americans said that they would justify charging higher health insurance rates to smokers. And about 39 percent said that they would justify raising health insurance rates to those significantly overweight.

Both percentages have gone down slightly since 2003, when Gallup asked these questions for the first time: from 65 percent for smokers having to pay higher rates and 43 percent for those significantly overweight.

The results are part of Gallup’s July 7-10 2014 Consumption Habits survey, in which telephone interviews were conducted with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and D.C.

The survey also asked participants if companies should be allowed to refuse to hire smokers or those significantly overweight. Most Americans agreed that there should not be discrimination against both. Only 12 percent said that companies should be allowed to refuse to hire people because they are significantly overweight (down from 16 percent in 2003); 14 percent said the same about smokers (up one percentage point from 13% in 2003).  

Even though most Americans oppose “hiring policies that would allow companies to refuse to hire smokers or those who are significantly overweight,” it is unclear if those views are because they do not think smoking and obesity negatively affect workplace performance or they “simply reject discrimination of any kind in hiring,” the report says.

According to the report, smoking and being overweight are associated with higher health care costs, and even the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) allows for higher insurance premiums for smokers. Some would argue that allowing companies to refuse to hire smokers and people who are overweight, or charging them higher health insurance rates, might help encourage healthier lifestyles.

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