By now, you may have noticed that individual health insurance rates are considerably more more expensive if you’re a smoker. But just how much more? The state’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner says companies are allowed to set smokers’ health- insurance rates as much as 50 percent higher, if they could justify such hefty increases.
So far, the companies whose plans have been favorably reviewed by the Commish’s office (for inclusion in the online marketplace known as the Washington Health Benefit Exchange through its Healthplanfinder tool) haven’t gone that high. Group Health Cooperative came in the highest, with a 20 percent increase for smokers. BridgeSpan Health Company (an affiliate of the parent company of Regence BlueShield) levied a 15 percent increase, and Premera and its subsidiary, LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, had 7.5 percent increases.