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 10:30AM
The stat's say low income people smoke more that high income and middle income. They will get subsidized health care or free health care. You will be paying either way. The difference is by letting this start you will let the government start deciding what you eat,drink,drive,how you exercise,what your hobby's are ect . This will all be controlled by the insurance company's to the point that no one will really have insurance. They will charge people higher premiums for less service. They will charge YOU the taxpayer more for the people that can't afford to pay the premiums. You are locked into paying for insurance whether you want / need it or not. The only winner here is the insurance company's. I can't believe people are so blind they can't see this.
Jan 29, 2013 10:29AM
That damn Obamacare, If I choose not to have insurance that's my right. If I choose to be 350 lbs, smoke and get drunk everyday, again my right. If I get a life threatening illness it was my right to get treatment because I couldn't be turned away by hospitals. Now this commie is forcing me to spend money on my own health insurance. This guy needs to go, i sure wish there were smarter people voting in elections. Romney wouldn't have let this happen!!!

Not very bright if you continue to smoke.


That's about it.

Jan 29, 2013 10:26AM

iF YOU had a cigarette in 1986....And then died in (NC or Cancer) 2012, the Healthcare System blames it on smoking or second hand smoke...


They are using excuses for their ineptness in doing their jobs, correctly..Lack of Education.

Jan 29, 2013 10:20AM

Ca Ca.....Smokers have paid Billions in taxes into the Governmental Systems for years...


And then AGs, Governmental, and Individuals sued Tobacco Companies for Billions more...

Monies were to go for SMOKER'S Health problems..And cessation,prevention programs...




Jan 29, 2013 10:20AM
You already do pay more for health insurance if you smoke.  I"m a self-employed painter.  I believe it is the second question the insurance company asks after your age.  "Do you or have you used tobacco products in the last 12 or 24 months".  It takes less than ten minutes of your time to check for an on-line quote for health insurance.  If I check I'm a tobacco user I pay $203.00 more per month for my health insurance..  If I don't check I'm a tobacco user and come down with a tobacco related problem the insurance company can refuse to pay for that problem.  Everybody makes it seem like OBAMA has started everything.  These things existed for decades people.  Pick up a book.
Jan 29, 2013 10:20AM
Over 400,000 tobacco related deaths last year alone. I bet a lot of the same people who scream for gun control squeal real loud when they get hit with this one. 
Jan 29, 2013 10:19AM
He is a DICTATOR and am leaving this Country - Rules and Regulations (lol).
Jan 29, 2013 10:19AM
Speaking of healthcare, Has any one started to tell people not to go to nursing school?  I read where the last two graduated classes are having trouble finding a job.  I am an RN with experience, and spent 15 months between jobs before I found one.  The government sponsored schools to teach a new breed of medical worker called the Medical Assistant.  They trained these people to do our skills but pay them half the money.  Now nurses have trouble finding work.  I hate when the government trys to fix something.  Anyway, If you are currently in school you may want to change your major.  Please, No negitive comments, I'm just letting you know my situation in the spirit of being helpful.  Save your time for something worth while.
Jan 29, 2013 10:17AM
That word again...FORCE... can't force anyone to do what they won't already do and obummer and his so called care can kiss my ****
Jan 29, 2013 10:11AM
GOOD, about time that the smokers pay for their unhealthy habit that is VERY costly to our health care system. Smoking is a choice! Back in time we did not know about the health hazards of smoking. NOW WE KNOW. I am glad the the new law gives the smoker a break when quitting smoking.
Jan 29, 2013 10:08AM
So an insurance plan to help everyone except those our government determines undeserving.  If your over weight be ware your next.  If you don't do what the governments wants you to now they'll just tax you into it.  We're sking down that slope folks and gaining speed.
Jan 29, 2013 10:03AM
More Tyranical BS of a Faciast Society in the making.  We all have our bad habits and before you scoff... next it will be overweight people and wait then maybe next it will be Shop-aholics.... I just do not understand people who will not think and be led like mindless sheep.  Freedom is such a precious gift and the sheeple are just letting the wolves slaughter it more and more each day.  I do not profess to tell anyone what to think I just ask you all to think before you they no longer even let you do that.  Blessed Be!
Jan 29, 2013 10:01AM
The rich will buy supplimental insurance.  The middle class will decide not to take a family vacation and buy supplimental insurance.  The poor who voted for this plan will be put into programs that are a fast track to death.  Ironic that a good part of the people who supported this will get the bad end of the deal.
Jan 29, 2013 9:56AM

I can't wait untill all the young people who normally would not buy health insurance, get their first bill for the mandatory requirement.

Jan 29, 2013 9:54AM
limo pat your a friggin IDIOT, Your leader obummer is a smoker O wait he gets health care for the elite as do the rest of the worthless politicians. Whose the FAT CATS now IDIOT.
Jan 29, 2013 9:53AM
How, & based on what data, can we derive that, a nicotine habit  is attributable more to one particular political party than the other? Other than rambling speculation, apparently derived from personal points of view, can you cite any recognized studies which provide even a hint of empirical evidence to support your theories?
Jan 29, 2013 9:53AM

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."


I think are Commander and Chief needs to live up to his word.


These is not what I would call a free Country with the right to pursue happiness.


To bad his health care only protects the Pharmaceutical Companies.


Jan 29, 2013 9:53AM
One of many surprises this character is forcing upon us!  He delusional.
Jan 29, 2013 9:52AM

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.

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