AUSTRALIA: SMOKERS SPARED HIGHER PREMIUMS
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 August 2012
Private health insurers have failed in a push to charge smokers higher premiums. While the federal government triumphed over big tobacco, the Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, said smokers should not be penalised with higher premiums – and people should pay the same regardless of the state of their health. She ruled out allowing the health funds to charge smokers more. The government celebrated the High Court's decision to back its tough plain-packaging laws. The government hopes the move will further drive down Australia's smoking rate from 15% to 10% of the population. However, it has no appetite to do this by changing the private health insurance system so that people who smoke would pay more for healthcare. One argument against charging smokers more is that they could be priced out of the private health market and rely more heavily on the already stretched public system. But Mr Fitzgibbon said the aftermath of the High Court's decision provided a good opportunity to reconsider the principle of community rating.