Support of Higher Health Costs for Smokers and Obese Drops

November 1, 2007 ( - A new poll indicates public support for asking people with unhealthy lifestyles to pay more for health care has dropped.

A Harris Interactive newsletter said the latest Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Healthcare Poll found 37% of U.S. adults said it is fair to make those with unhealthy lifestyles pay more for insurance premiums than those with healthy lifestyles, compared to 53% who said the same last year. Additionally, 35% of respondents said it is fair for those with unhealthy lifestyles to pay higher deductibles or copayments, compared to 53% who said so in 2006.

The poll found that males (51%) were more likely to support the higher health care costs than females (32%), and that respondents took a harder stance against smoking than obesity, according to the newsletter. Fifty-seven percent were in favor of higher health insurance costs for smokers, while 36% favored higher costs for the obese.

Respondents were generally opposed to employers having the right to fire employees for smoking (7%) or being overweight (4%), however 29% said employers should be able to require employees to attend smoking cessation programs and 30% said employers should be able to require attendance in weight loss programs.

Smokers were more in favor of limiting employer rights, while respondents who consider themselves to be seriously overweight tended to agree with the general population.

The online survey of 2,267 U.S. adults age 18 or over was conducted by Harris Interactive between October 8 and 10, 2007, for the Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition ( ).