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DCBHA Statement on Tobacco Users' Premiums

posted Apr 8, 2013, 12:33 PM by DC Behavioral Health Association
Yesterday, the D.C. Behavioral Health Association urged the Health Benefit Exchange to not charge higher premiums to tobacco users. The Board today voted 5-to-1 in favor of the DCBHA's position. DCBHA's full statement can be found below:
As the D.C. Exchange Board considers whether to implement a tobacco rating within the
D.C. Health Benefit Exchange, please consider the following information submitted on
behalf of the D.C. Behavioral Health Association, as encouragement not to rate tobacco
The D.C. Behavioral Health Association represents the majority of publicly-funded addiction
and mental health treatment providers in the District of Columbia. Our mission is to expand
access to behavioral health services and to improve the quality of those services. We believe
that rating tobacco users will impair our members’ ability to identify and treat tobacco
addiction, and it will disproportionately impact individuals suffering from behavioral health
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently
published a report on the link between smoking and mental health or addiction disorders
Research indicates that individuals with mental illness or substance abuse disorders are
94% more likely to smoke than adults without these disorders. In fact, individuals with
substance abuse or mental health disorders account for nearly 40% of all cigarettes smoked.
Although 24.8% of the adult population have mental health and substance abuse conditions,
they accounted for nearly 40% of all cigarettes smoked. These statistics prove that a rating
to increase premiums for tobacco users would adversely and disproportionately effect the
population we strive so hard to serve.
Rating tobacco users may also cause affected consumers to not disclose their tobacco use to
their doctor. The lack of frank discussion about tobacco use between doctors and patients
will frustrate providers’ ability to identify and treat their clients’ needs. This would be a
particularly disappointing outcome precisely because the Affordable Care Act has expanded
coverage of preventive services like tobacco cessation.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to accept the recommendations of the Health Benefit
Exchange Standing Advisory Board to ban tobacco rating within the DC Health Benefit