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

686Comments
Jan 29, 2013 12:17PM
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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
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And this is "the land of the free"!!!!!!!
Jan 29, 2013 12:11PM
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This nothing more than discrimination!
Jan 29, 2013 12:11PM
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Time for all to drop all health insurance and no insurance company will get rich or say who pay's more. We The People do not  need anyone telling us what we can or can't do. We have freedom of choise and if you give your freedom up what is the point of living. I don't like anyone telling me  what I can or can't do. You might want to bend over now cause the K-Y is right behind you.
Jan 29, 2013 12:03PM
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Hey why limit it to smokers, How about over weight people, Come on people lets get together and get rid of obummercare
Jan 29, 2013 12:01PM
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Socialism is taking over. Are we all blind. Smokers are already taxed heavily, If you drink = More taxes - People who smoke and drink pay more taxes than anyone else. Why is "my" government trying to force me to change how I choose to live. I thought that our forefathers wrote the constitution to keep the government from doing exactly what they are doing.

Jan 29, 2013 12:00PM
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OKAY, SO I'M SCREWED. WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO DON'T WORK THAT SMOKE? WILL THEY BE DENIED HEALTH CARE? OR WILL THEY PAY DOUBLE. OH YEAH 2 X 0 =0. MAKES SENSE.
Jan 29, 2013 12:00PM
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That is good enough for all the fools that  voted for him because of the freebies, so suck it up now!!!!
Jan 29, 2013 12:00PM
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What a hypocritical POS!  He's a smoker for crying out loud!  He may try to make people believe he quit because Michelle will kick his butt but I'm not going for it.  So what; an insurance company, potential employer or doctor in the employ of either of these entities is going to tell me it's mandatory to test me for nicotine?  Until tobacco is illegal they have no right and even then what I do on my own time that hurts only myself is my business.  I work, I pay taxes and I have been paying for health insurance for years without using it; the greedy SOB's have made their money off me already.  I hope all you people who voted for this idiot are happy with your change.  If you are just give it some time, I'm sure he will do something to piss you off as well.  Just remember when it happens that you voted him in.
Jan 29, 2013 11:56AM
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No-Bamacare for Odumbo.  Do you really think the Washington pinheads want this demo-jiz for their families? Not bloody likely. Odumbocare will continue to erode away at our health system until he gets his wish of everyone being on an even playing field... NOBODY WILL HAVE ANY DECENT HEALTH INSURANCE.  And the insurance companies will continue to charge what they want. It continues to make them richer.
Jan 29, 2013 11:55AM
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Tobacco, Firearms and Alcohol have the highest generating Tax. So if people start smoking where will they get all that money to replace Cigarette Tax
Jan 29, 2013 11:54AM
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Hey MORONS! Maybe you should actually look into Obamacare before you bash it. If you would research it yourselves (instead of allowing Fox News to think FOR you), you would find most of the crap you are spreading is completely WRONG. Yes, its not a perfect system-- but nothing is. If you want a scapegoat as to why our healthcare "industry" is so F--d up, look at the INSURANCE COMPANIES and pharmaceutical industry that controls everything.
Jan 29, 2013 11:53AM
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So, here's the question--

 

What is considered a smoker?  What is an ex-smoker?  Someone that's been quit for a day, a week, a month, or what?

 

Where will the insurance companies draw the line?

Jan 29, 2013 11:53AM
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good, their life style choice has caused health care expenditures to explode and be paid by the other people's premiums who select good life style choices. This has been a significant problem with health insurance for decades. Anyone bitching about this wonderful  new rule, to make people pay for their poor choices and not force other people to pay for them, should have their brain taken out and either fixed or destroyed. It means they are dumber than hell and do not understand how the American health system works and is financed. You cause higher health care costs by your choices, you damn well should pay for that poor choice, not the rest of us. Read and learn something and stop being idiots.
Jan 29, 2013 11:52AM
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Will they add alcoholics, the obese, anorexics, etc and all people with poor life style habits? If you do one than you should do them all. Just saying fair is fair!
Jan 29, 2013 11:52AM
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 We all know that Obama smokes but guess what.. He and his cronies are EXEMPT from Obama care. They don't have to suffer the consequences of a health care system that will dictate what a person can or cannot do and will put a horrible financial burden on their families. AND look what it has done to the companies that had to cut back on employees because of the cost. Yes, I agree with the folks that stated in the previous posts... You voted him in... Thanks ALOT!

Jan 29, 2013 11:50AM
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Obama Care is going to be the death of us! Next they will target people living in high crime areas who are libel to get shot or stabbed- bigger premium, people driving faster cars- bigger premium, People who work are more likely to get injured- bigger premium. Lets see you all have some risk so we are just going to have to raise the rates until we break you. Oh by the way we will have to charge a higher premium for that.
Jan 29, 2013 11:44AM
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Unless of course you are an illegal, and you won't have to pay for anything. We will hand out free condoms. Please use unsparingly. Grab as many as you can go back home and sell them. Then you have a job, then you can control your population and stay away from here. Take Obama with you, his illegal uncle, and illegal aunt as well. Whole damn family are criminals. WTF ?
Jan 29, 2013 11:43AM
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I dont think its smoking I think its polution and this made up crap that smoking is the reason that people cant breath. The Big three pushes it on smoking and not the real cause exhaust from autos when your sitting in traffic jams by the way Id like to thank the state of Minnesota for sueing tobaco companies for me without my permission then I dont see any of the monies from it Basicly my opinion is lets just get it over with time to take down big brother who has no intention of looking out for me.

Jan 29, 2013 11:43AM
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Obamacare is starting to show its true colors; being that it's also apparently a manipulative tool for whatever agenda our government wishes to pursue, it now has a finacial the means by which to impose anything it wants upon us.

 

Moreover, weren't the excessive sales taxes already being imposed upon smokers suppose to take care of those costs?

 

What's next, drugs, alcohol, the type of work you do, where you live (Chicago), your political affiliation.

 

Welcome socialism; good-bye free market, the Obama tail is starting to wag the US dog!

 

 

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