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.”

More on moneyNOW

Jan 29, 2013 12:52PM
Got to love it. Heck I love my cigars. Buddy was down in Nicaragua and as he checked into his hotel he asked about the people sitting and smoking in the lobby. The desk clerks reply was, "of course you can, we are a free country". Now I'm not endorsing smoking in public places but it sure seems our choices and freedom is slip sliding away. Got to go now as I need to go and clean my AR-15.
Jan 29, 2013 12:51PM
Obama is a loser...I hope that the majority of the people that voted for him are smokers!!!
Jan 29, 2013 12:50PM
This is because smokers are too complacent and sat idly by while the anti smoke nazi's ran rough shod with their activist agenda. 30 days of no tax revenues from tobacco would make the Feds, the states and the tobacco companies all stand up and take notice. All they are doing is biting the hand that feeds the kitty. Smoking is a legal activity. NO_ONE has the right to restrict it's use or force them to pay more in fines. There are too many bad habits that drive up costs to just focus on one and not the rest is just criminal. We need to leave everyone alone to their own devices and stop dictating how we should live and act. Stay out of my business and i will stay out of your. Bad habits should not be taxable. I thought that was the freedom we gained when America was formed. I pay for my insurances, all of them. When i start getting rebates from the INsurance industry for not issuing claims then i wouldn't have a problem. To force everyone to pay for something that a small percentage uses up is larcenous. Start fining everyone individually for any of their bad habits so we are responsible for only our own. That is the only fair way. You can't be an obese person crying about smokers. You can;t be a closet alcoholic and claim smokers are worse than you.
Jan 29, 2013 12:49PM
John Doe 2 and Starman said it perfectly..Welcome to the beginning of the end of life as you know it. Those nasty republicans warned of this, blowhard Limbaugh and his ilk predicted it, correctly. What will be next? My passion is motorcycling; Badmitton and ping pong is much safer, and less expensive for 'the people' to deal with when 'something happens' but, "til we can ban those awful things we must mandate 10 horsepower, 55 mph and for the love of Biden enact a national helmet law'..The mortality rate per human beings is 100%. Nobody is getting out of this alive whatever you do or do not do. I despise smoking, though I did it for 37 years and have apparently made it outta the addictive nightmare OK, for a while. But it is not my business what people choose to do, nor is it Mr. O'Bama's or of his appointed henchmen. If a person can't do what he wants to do, as long as it does not affect others, well, what kind of s*** is that?. And I don't wanna hear that classic socialist whine 'but, it's for the good of the people that you do/not do whatever it might be'....bull****........AAARRRGGG!!!!!!!!!
Jan 29, 2013 12:48PM
well the hell with it. i'll just drop my insurance and let the sob take care of me like they think they are doing for others. cant turn you down i hear. dont know i've always paid my own way, but i guess i can change that. play freebie right along with them. ****es.
Jan 29, 2013 12:46PM

Come on people...we all know we shouldn't smoke smoking yet some people choose to.  Dumb choice....I know,  I smoked and quit 20 yrs ago. Smokers should pay more if they don't people who don't smoke will pay for it.   I don't wanna pay for someone who knowingly makes a choice to poisin their body with tobacco. 

I think there should be a cut-off year though. The older generation who wasn't aware of the  tconsequences, elderly people, should be exempt. 

But these young people who start smoking in their teens and twentys hell yeah.  It's stupid where in the world are 15 yr olds getting $5.00 for a pack of cigarettes.  I mean seriously people why start smoking with so much information about the harmful effects. 

You know it's bad for you....don't start iit's your choice so you PAY the consequences.

Society needs to make people be held responsible for their own actions and stop making excuses for them and make innocent people pay for their retarded stupid immature choices.

Same thing with obese people...unless it's a hormonal genetic defect.

You sat there and gorged on soda, pizza, big macs and worked it off by clicking your remote to change channels What in the world gives you the right to think I wanna pay for you. I have absolutely no sympathy for you.  I see you shop in the grocery store nothing healthy in your cart.and you feed your little chubby kids the same junk...that's child abuse and Im not rewarding it by paying for your health-care....it's called health-care so care for your own health.

People  wanna be NICE and not hurt feelings.....gimme a break people.  There's too much information and support to be young smokers and obese it's disgusting and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Jan 29, 2013 12:46PM

So apparently with Obamacare they can't exclude you for a prexisting condition but they can sure as heck foster you, and others by example, to not have a prexisting condition by over charging you for having it; nicely played, I did not see that one coming, NOT!


The field of social medicine seeks to:

understand how social and economic conditions impact health, disease and the practice of medicine and
foster conditions in which this understanding can lead to a healthier society. 
Jan 29, 2013 12:38PM

What about drinker?


I see discrimination................


Time to find a real good lawyer

Jan 29, 2013 12:38PM
Ahhhhh......Can we do that to HIS health insurance for smoking?  Ahhhh..the one we pay for him?
Jan 29, 2013 12:35PM
Now all of you idiots who voted for Obama can feel it in your pocketbook.  Ha, ha, ha!  I'm a republican!
Jan 29, 2013 12:34PM
The American people are being played.  These laws never apply to the politicians, and they have us so divided....they can stay in power. Time for Dems and Repubs to throw down and come up with a 3rd party.  The tea party was an attempt, but the media has successfully snuffed it.  The media has an agenda too.  We really need to see that and respond more intellagently.  Probably won't happen though, since the media is very strong.  This has happened in America berfore.  100 years ago, William Randall Hurst used the media inappropriately and contributed to a presidential assassination.  Look it up people, Or watch the old movie Citizen Cain.  Seems we never learn from our own history.  The schools still teach history, don't they?
Jan 29, 2013 12:30PM
republicans are losers, they are in favor of smoking, slavery, Assault weapons, hugh CEO bonuses, and tax cuts for the super rich! Right to work for less money, anti union, anti EPA, LOSERS. You lost the election big time because you are   Once again all together LOSERS!  HAHAHAHAHAHA
Jan 29, 2013 12:28PM
Jan 29, 2013 12:25PM
This makes the smoker surcharge sound like a new thing.  Insurers in the individual health (and life) insurance markets have been charging more to smokers for years, because the health care costs justify it.  All the ACA did was say they could continue to do so, up to 50%.
Jan 29, 2013 12:24PM

Here's another one for you all to consider. I have a friend who was a college and a professional football player until a knee injury forced him into early retirement. Since, he's had both knees and one hip replaced. He has been in and out of the hospital for numerous broken bones and strains. I also work with another guy who has been in the hospital for multiple reasons, at least once a year, since I started working at the firm 6 years ago.


At what point does Obamacare decide that you've over extended your coverage, that you're now a part of the problem of excessive costs to the system. Is there to be a higher premium for these individuals as well, and once there's a set threshold, can it be changed, lowered to include more individuals as costs increase.   

Jan 29, 2013 12:22PM
ever heard, "what goes around, comes around?"
when we have reached rock bottom in this country, (which won't be long now)
those who were beneficial in bringing us down, will be on the receiving end, may god
have mercy on their souls, they know who they are, oops forgot,
most of them don't believe there is a higher power other than obama, their fall is gonna be 
a hard one,
Jan 29, 2013 12:21PM

Obama is only Obama, but a good cigar is a smoke.


With apologies to Rudyard Kipling.

Jan 29, 2013 12:19PM
We should encourage smoking as this will help save social security.  The more people who die younger than 62 years of age the better off the social security fund will be for those that remain.
Jan 29, 2013 12:17PM

If this passes, then I will personally smack the cigarette out of anyone's mouth that isn't paying their own insurance.  And then, we can go after the winos and any of the poor that are eating fast food. 

Jan 29, 2013 12:15PM
And this is "the land of the free"!!!!!!!
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