NEW YORK (MainStreet) Puffing away on an electronic cigarette is becoming increasingly popular, but the rule for partaking in them is not clear when you sign up for health insurance.
Some insurers may attempt to charge e-cigarette users a higher premium. Since the battery-powered product only simulates cigarette smoke by creating a smoke-like vapor that contains nicotine and other flavors, but not tobacco, it is not being regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA regulates regular cigarettes and cigars currently and issued a proposed rule that would classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
When you are purchasing health insurance, the application asks consumers if they are a tobacco user. If you answer yes, you could pay up to 50% more than non-tobacco users. The questions posed on the applications vary widely and can be confusing since most of them only ask if you use tobacco on a regular basis, not if you use e-cigarettes, said Carrie McLean, director of customer care at eHealth.com, an online health insurance exchange based in Mountain View, Calif.
If you are confused about the language being used on the application, start by calling the insurance company and asking a representative to clarify the policy since some companies want e-cigarette users to mark themselves as tobacco users on the form while others do not, she said.
"When shopping for coverage, call the health insurance company you're considering and ask them about their policy," McLean said. "Ask first of all whether you should identify as a tobacco user and if the answer is yes, what that's going to mean for your health insurance premiums."
Many changes will occur in health insurance applications for 2015 since there are still no hard and fast rules yet about how insurers should treat e-cigarettes.