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.

By Bruce Kennedy Jan 28, 2013 2:32PM

Image: Man smoking ( Steve Mason/Photodisc Blue/Getty Images)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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Jan 29, 2013 11:41AM
This is the Nanny State all you fools voted for!  If charging $13.00 a pack in New York City hasn't stopped the smokers (even those who want to quit) this Nannification of the State and Big Brother ObamaCare won't either and if they can't buy insurance they will be forced to go to the ER's who in turn will treat them anyway and the hospitals won't be able to turn them away either so WE are the ones who all pay in the end.
Jan 29, 2013 11:40AM

Big brother strikes again. Just wait next they will overcharge us if your over weight.

Jan 29, 2013 11:39AM

To be honest...would would be obligated to actually inform an insurance company if we smoke or not?

So let me get this right , I walk into my doctors office and am handed a pamplet (hippa laws), Since theres a waiting peroid of atleast 45 min I decide to browse through>>>>>>My doctor asks me tons of personal questions and then informs me that he needs to inform my insurance company that I smoke?

He may as call them and tell them that im bi polar too and pms tends to make me a little bitchy so please inform my car insurance company that if you cut me off , I may unintentionally flip you the bird, and oh while youre at it please inform those around me that its possible due to tax increases dinner may be late.......a fox can steal youre turkeys, a bear can **** in the woods, and now we have spent billions of dollars to keep people in jail for minimal amounts of marjuana, but now hunny its ok ....

Jan 29, 2013 11:36AM
obamacare is a bad idea. it leaves alll the power in the hands of the ins. companies. plus how is a family going to afford 2600 dollars a year out of pocket expense after the government picks up the rest of the tab. when you live paycheck to paycheck you can't afford another forced bill each month.the only way a health care plan might have a chance to work is if it is govenment run and ins. companies are exclude all together. sad to say it is human nature that ins. companies see a way to make big money and they will do it
Jan 29, 2013 11:33AM

Perhaps they can use this same rationale for people who are obese.


How many deaths, and at what costs, are associated with individuals who think a Krispy Kreme doughnut is a well-rounded meal?


Oh wait.  That's right, these people can't help themselves!

Jan 29, 2013 11:32AM
obamacare stop smoking, heck no. it will increase smoking.  just think of it this way. Alll those people who get fired and layed off will be drinking more and when people drink they tend to smoke more also.  so obamacare is actuall bad for peoples health in another way, however it will also promote smoking weed as you must be stoned to think this was a good idea to have obamacare and vote the nut job back into office.
Jan 29, 2013 11:32AM
they can say all they want about obamacare but it just feeds right into the pockets of ins. companies getting rich and the average family getting poorer. people live paycheck to paycheck so how are they to pay for forced ins. even with the government help a family is still responsible for an average of 2600 a year out of pocket. how does one account for this if they are having trouble making ends meet now. plus ins. companies will control this and not the government. really bad idea alll the way around. as sad as it is the only way a system like this might work and still questionable is if it is all run by a govenment agency excluding all ins. companies
Jan 29, 2013 11:30AM
Good job, Dems! You blithering idiots!
Jan 29, 2013 11:30AM
I think they should take all of his ideas along with him and send them to the middle east.
Jan 29, 2013 11:29AM
Congress is considering sweeping legislation that will provide new benefits
for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act
(AWNAA)  is being hailed as a major legislative goal by advocates of the
millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.

"Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive
necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society," said
California Sen. Barbara Boxer. "We can no longer stand by and allow People
of Inability (POI) to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation,
employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of
workers, simply because they have some idea of what they are doing."

In a Capitol Hill press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed to the success of the U.S. Postal
Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without
regard to performance. Approximately 74 percent of postal employees lack any
job skills, making this agency the single largest U.S. employer of Persons
With No Ability.

Private-sector industries with good records of non-discrimination against
the inept include retail sales (72 percent), the airline industry (68
percent), and home-improvement warehouse stores (65 percent). At the state
government level, the Department of Motor Vehicles also has an excellent
record of hiring Persons with No Ability (63 percent).

Under the Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million mid-level
positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real
responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance.

Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given to
guarantee upward mobility for even the most unremarkable employees.
The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations that promote
a significant number of Persons of Inability (POI) into middle-management
positions, and give a tax credit to small and medium-sized businesses that
agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.

Finally, the Americans With No Abilities Act contains tough new measures to
make it more difficult to discriminate against the non-abled, banning, for
example, discriminatory interview questions such as, "Do you have any skills
or experience that relate to this job?"

"As a non-abled person, I can't be expected to keep up with people who have
something going for them," said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a
lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, Mich., due to her inability to
remember righty tighty, lefty loosey. "This new law should be real good for
people like me. I finally have job security."
With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented
citizens will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Said Sen. Dick Durbin: "As a senator with no abilities, I believe the same
privileges that elected officials enjoy ought to be extended to every
American with no abilities. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and
every American citizen, regardless of his or her inadequacy, with some sort
of space to take up in this great nation and a good salary for doing so."

Jan 29, 2013 11:21AM
Jan 29, 2013 11:16AM
almost makes me want to quit.......NOT!
Jan 29, 2013 11:15AM
It's not just the money...wait until you need heart surgery and find out you're at the end of a very long list.  Or say you are diabetic and need a knee replacement and are told no surgery until your hemaglobin A1c test improves.  Or if you are over weight and told no knee surgery until your BMI improves.  Then you can get on the end of the list.  So you wanted the government to control your healthcare?  Well get ready, It's going to be a bumpy ride.  You will have to show the government that you are worthy of the care you are asking for.  Sure there were problems with healthcare, but we used a shotgun to kill a mouse on this one.
Jan 29, 2013 11:14AM

A while back I read articles regarding some people who smoke do so because they are self-medicating a mental health problem-maybe something like a low grade depression rather than something higher. So what do we do with these people-other than hang them out to dry? As we have seen with the convesation surrounding Adam Lanza we have a long way to go with mental health issues.


On a similar note, what if you smoke because you are nervous and part of the reason you are nervous is you boss. Your boss has a deficit in understanding that he or she needs to adjust to the employee in order to get the most production out of the person-no change in result, but a change in how you get the result. How does a company adjust to being a cause of the smoking? That is something I would like to see.

Jan 29, 2013 11:14AM
First they came for the smokers, and I wasn't a smoker so I didn't care. Then they came for the overweight; I'm in shape so I didn't care. Then those that consume sugar, then caffein, then meat eaters.  Then they came for me because I was the wrong blood type.
Jan 29, 2013 11:10AM
Jan 29, 2013 11:10AM

Maybe we should joust outlaw cigs and alchohol since these kill far more people than do AK 47's.

First the guns, then "dangerous" products.  What's next, bedsheets because you can hang yourself with them?

Get ready to start singing the national anthem with a gun at your back....

Jan 29, 2013 11:08AM

I've smoked since I was 13 years old. I could get cigs easily.It was a legal habit an still is.I think I should bring a lawsuit against the U.S. government for letting tobacco products be so easy to purchase.

Jan 29, 2013 11:05AM

Service for your Obamaphone will be terminated on Friday because:

1.  You failed to Reply to three Automated Obamacare Enrollment Text messages.

2. Your replies to two successive Opinion Polls about the popularity our glorious leader,

     B HUSSEIN Obama, were found to have the wrong answers.

3. You have not requested any new Entitlements in 6 months.


Jan 29, 2013 11:04AM
Smokers refuse to fight their obviously deadly habit and then expect everyone else to pay the premium for their healthcare. Not any more.
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