WASHINGTON (AP)-Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama's health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation.
The Affordable Care Act-"Obamacare" to its detractors-allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.
For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums....
Nearly one of every five U.S. adults smokes. That share is higher among lower-income people, who also are more likely to work in jobs that don't come with health insurance and would therefore depend on the new federal health care law. Smoking increases the risk of developing heart disease, lung problems and cancer, contributing to nearly 450,000 deaths a year.
Insurers won't be allowed to charge more under the overhaul for people who are overweight, or have a health condition like a bad back or a heart that skips beats-but they can charge more if a person smokes....
Although the law prohibits insurance companies from turning away the sick, the penalties for smokers could have the same effect in many cases, keeping out potentially costly patients....
In yet another, "We had to pass it to find out what's in it moment," most Americans are jsut now learning that smokers face extremely high penalties that will likely make individual policies unaffordable.
How does one access smoking cessation programs and medication if they can't afford health insurance?
This disproportionately targets low income and minority Americans, who are both more likely to smoke and to work in industries without employer-paid healthcare coverage.
Why is smoking being treated differently than any other pre-existing condition or risk factor? There are plenty of other "elective" and controllable risk factors such as drug use, alcohol use, risky activities, poor dietary habits, and sedentary lifestyle that don't result in huge financial penalties to insurance applicants under Obamacare.
Jan 27, '13
Oh my...I once smoked more than 1/2 a pack a day. I quit with the patch. I think I should be charged more for health insurance if I ever choose to smoke again b/c it is costly to treat the health consequences of this optional habit. At least smokers are covered under the ACA. One more thought - smoking is not a pre-existing health condition; it is a lifestyle choice.
Last edit by mariebailey on Jan 27, '13
: Reason: add'l thought