Will Obamacare force more smokers to quit?
The Affordable Care Act will impose large insurance surcharges on tobacco users. But people in smoking-cessation programs will get a break.
Obamacare bans higher premiums or the denial of health coverage because of pre-existing conditions. But one group will still find themselves penalized: smokers.
The new measures in the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect next January, would allow health insurance companies to charge tobacco users up to 50% more for individual policies. And the costs of that rate hike would come entirely out of smokers’ pockets.
A recent Associated Press report notes those surcharges, nearly $4,250 a year on top of premiums for a 55-year-old smoker and close to $5,100 for a 60-year-old, could impose a heavy financial burden on individuals with a tobacco habit "at a time in life when smoking-related illnesses tend to emerge."
The ACA penalties could give added incentive to companies looking to sidestep smokers as potential employees.
Smoker protection laws already exist in 29 states and the District of Columbia, but that might be changing. Oklahoma, for example, is considering a bill that would repeal those laws. "These are the kinds of protections you’d think we have for race and gender, not smokers," State Sen. David Holt told KFOR-TV. "Just as a smoker has made a choice, employers ought to be able to make choices too."
Nearly 20% of people in the United States smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says smoking also kills more than 440,000 people in the U.S. annually while costing the economy more than $193 billion each year in lost productivity and health care expenditures. And it says secondhand smoke costs -- from healthcare expenditures as well as illness and premature death -- amount to another $10 billion.
Analysts say those statistics, along with the ACA penalties, are causing the insurance industry to look even closer at smokers.
"If you are an insurer and there is a group of smokers you don't want in your pool, the ones you really don't want are the ones who have been smoking for 20 or 30 years," Karen Pollitz, insurance market expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation, told AP. "You would have the flexibility to discourage them."
But there is optimism the ACA measures could also help more smokers kick the habit. The CDC says more than two-thirds of all smokers want to quit completely. And the American Lung Association notes all new private insurance plans under the ACA must cover treatments to help smokers quit smoking.
And as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog points out,, ACA wouldn’t allow insurers to apply the full penalty against a smoker enrolled in a quit-smoking program.
"We don't want to create barriers for people to get health care coverage," California state Assemblyman Richard Pan told AP. "We want people who are smoking to get smoking cessation treatment.”
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Welcome to the beginning of the slippery slope. They will be getting to the rest of you who have other bad habits shortly.
Ok, maybe THINK about this some... "Obamacare" will impose surcharges on smokers and thus make their health insurance costs go up... sounds good and right to many, I am sure.
I think... WRONG! This is a really bad idea, folks. I don't smoke, saw several close relatives and many friends die painfully and horribly due to direct outcomes associated with life-times of cancerettes, and I've seen and worked with many others who suffer the impacts, etc. etc. etc. Seems that I should like to see smoking END, and YES, I most certainly DO. But using this imposed smoker's surcharge to coerce foks to quit smoking is still a really bad idea. Not because it can't work - it likely can! And not because smoking is in any way actually "a trivial impact on people's health and societal costs", which it most certainly is NOT. But because doing this opens the door and sets a national precedent for ANY OTHER similar attempt by some to coerce part of society to change their behavior. And, while we all want some to change their behavior in some ways, YOU, too, may suddenly find this sword may cut at YOU. This can happen to smokers now - what about YOU later on?
This uses the "logic" that smoking impacts both the smoker and all those who share the insurance pool paying for his/her costs - very true, far as this goes. But this same logic can be erected to "fix" any number of other behaviors... Do you drink alcohol, like soda-pop, eat fast-food and "junk food", have "unprotected sex", watch lot's of TV, play video-games, etc.? ALL of these things are known, claimed, or believed to put folks at higher risk for various health problems. So, to some, each and all of these may well be behaviors which should be changed "for the greater benefit of us all", "as I don't want to pay for YOUR habits and bad behavior".
Oh, and yes, insurance companies have always looked for and created ways to exclude some from insurance pools - sky-dive or SCUBA or drive race-cars? Hey, pay more for life insurance, even if you are on average in better health than your age-group. But you also have the freedom of shopping elsewhere for the "best deal" or even not buying that insurance. Smokers don't have that luxury under Obamacare - gotta buy the insurance, and gotta pay a surcharge regardless of whom you get insurance from (so, no option to "not have it", AND no option by shopping around). Not FAIR.
Just suggesting folks think about this...
I smoke but dont have any health issues. Im penalized to the extreme to buy mandatory health care. Ill sign a DNR or something to effect that I agree not to ask for health services. My choice to die without all your excessive, overpriced health care. and my cig taxes are greatly appreciated and raised every year by the state and feds. Nice touch
Soda pop drinkers are next. then overweight people. You caused your diabetes etc.
The list will not end. Commen sense said we should not let the government have our healthcare, but then again we no longer have commen sense. After all, we just tossed a 5 year old girl out of school for talking about her Hello Kitty bubble gun. We are doomed.
We can also thank Chief Justice Roberts for this mess.....Hang on, this health care reform is going to end up reforming all of us.
Copied and pasted from the CDC website:
More than 75% of health care costs are due to chronic conditions.
Chronic Diseases Are Preventable
Chronic diseases are the most common and costly of all health problems, but they are also the most preventable. Four common, health-damaging, but modifiable behaviors—tobacco use, insufficient physical activity, poor eating habits, and excessive alcohol use—are responsible for much of the illness, disability, and premature death related to chronic diseases.
Do you really believe they will stop with smokers ?
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A basic income policy can actually ensure a decent standard of living for everyone.
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