Obesity has long been a source for health problems, but new datashows the epidemic is also taking a heavy toll on wallets.

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According to eHealth data, policyholders in the obese BMIcategory pay an average monthly premium 22.6 percent higher thanthose in the normal BMI category ($164 compared to $201). For men,it’s an even heftier toll: The average monthly premium paid by menin the obese category ($187) is 30.8 percent higher than theaverage premium paid by men in the normal category ($143).

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And smokers don’t have it easy, either. The averagemonthly premium for smokers is 14 percent higher than non-smokers.[Read "Stop-smokingbenefit can save money for Medicaid."]

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“We’ve known for a long time that smoking and obesity can have an impact on overall health and longevity,”says eHealth Chief Executive Office Gary Lauer. “Now, thanks to thedata eHealth is releasing, we can put a dollar figure on what itcosts Americans today in terms of higher health insurance premiumsin the individual market. We feel that this data can providefurther incentive to any individual trying to tackle theseimportant health issues.”

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Comparisons of average premium costs relative to the applicant’sBMI are derived from a sample of more than 229,000 individual majormedical policies purchased through eHealthInsurance with coveragein effect as of February 2011. Comparisons of average premium costsfor smokers and non-smokers in the report were derived from asample of more than 274,000 individual major medical policiespurchased through eHealthInsurance with coverage in effect inFebruary 2011.

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