Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll Finds Americans Want Insurance Penalties for Unhealthful Habits

Smoking, Obesity and Stress Cited as Key Drivers of Healthcare Costs

Nov 03, 2011, 16:22 ET from Thomson Reuters

ANN ARBOR, Mich. and WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly one-third of Americans believe overweight and obese individuals should be penalized for their unhealthful habits and over half say smokers also should pay more for their health insurance, according to the Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll.

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Thomson Reuters and NPR conduct the monthly poll to gauge attitudes and opinions on a wide range of health issues.

In the latest survey in the series, 30.7 percent of respondents say overweight or obese individuals should pay more for health insurance than normal weight individuals. Respondents who said this most frequently had at least a college degree (39.7%) and made over $100,000 a year (44.1%).

Similarly, the poll asked if smokers should pay more for health insurance, and over half of respondents (58.5%) said yes. This view was more prevalent as respondents' age, income, and level of education increased.

When asked about specific factors driving up healthcare costs, respondents pegged smoking (28.5%), obesity (27.6%) and stress (25.2%) as the top cost drivers. These factors beat out alcohol use (11.2%) and workplace safety (7.5%).  

When asked if they thought it was acceptable to deny employment to overweight or obese individuals, 11.3% said yes.

Overwhelmingly, 84.8% believe that individuals with healthful behaviors, which included exercise, healthy eating, and not using tobacco, should receive a discount on their health insurance premiums.

"Discounts for good behaviors are always more popular than surcharges for bad behaviors, but the science of behavioral economics teaches us that loss avoidance is three times more powerful than receiving a gain," said Raymond Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer for the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters. "Before anyone rushes to create behavior-based plans, though, it's important to look at the data. Our research shows that obesity is a much higher driver of healthcare costs than smoking."

For a copy of the survey results, visit: http://healthcare.thomsonreuters.com/npr/assets/NPR_report_UnhealthyBehav.pdf

To date, the Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll has explored numerous healthcare topics, including generic drugs, abortion, vaccines, food allergies, and organic and genetically modified foods. NPR's reports on the surveys are archived online at the Shots health blog here: http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=137038712&ps=sh_sttag

Thomson Reuters maintains a library of poll results: http://healthcare.thomsonreuters.com/npr/. The Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll is powered by the Thomson Reuters PULSE(SM) Healthcare Survey, an independently funded, nationally representative telephone poll that collects information about health-related behaviors and attitudes and healthcare utilization from more than 100,000 US households annually. Survey questions are developed in conjunction with NPR. The figures in this month's poll are based on 3,012 participants interviewed from September 1-13, 2011. The margin of error is 1.8 percent.

About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.  We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial, legal, tax and accounting, healthcare and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization.  With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs more than 55,000 people and operates in over 100 countries.  For more information, go to www.thomsonreuters.com.

About NPR
NPR is an award-winning, multimedia news organization and an influential force in American life. In collaboration with more than 900 independent public radio stations nationwide, NPR strives to create a more informed public - one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.

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