ObamaCare’s penalties on smokers, causing them to pay much higher premiums for their health insurance, may achieve exactly the opposite of what was intended- smokers may cancel their health insurance and stick with smoking.
Smokers are the only members in a group that includes drug addicts, obese customers, and alcoholics to be penalized by Obamacare because of their preexisting condition. Smokers can be charged up to 50% more than non-smokers for the same insurance policy. The idea was to charge tobacco users more, and thus force them into abandoning their smoking so they could afford health insurance.
But the American Lung Association’s Jennifer Singleterry said, “Tobacco surcharges are not proven to help tobacco users quit and there are major concerns that they will prevent people from getting health care coverage. Charging tobacco users more in health insurance premiums, sometimes thousands of dollars more, studies have shown, will price smokers out of the market.”
Eleven states opted out of the higher charges for smokers, but a majority of states went along with the idea, allowing insurance providers to figure out how much the additional penalty should be. The poor, who receive federal subsidies for Obamacare, cannot use them to offset the penalty.
A study by nonpartisan Institute for Health Policy Solutions offered three possible scenarios for the smoker’s dilemma: a young, non-smoker at the bottom of the income barrel would pay $708; a smoker would pay $3,308: a non-smoker 59 or older would pay $708 (before subsidies) for a mid-level policy, the same person smoking would pay $5,908; and an older smoking poor couple could pay an $11,352 health care premium if they made $23,000 annually, while a non-smoking couple would pay $952 after federal subsidies.
Larry Levitt, a Kaiser Family Foundation senior adviser, commented:
There are certainly cases where the insurance company is applying the maximum significant surcharge where someone could be paying a significant share of their income toward health insurance. There are competing goals here. There’s the goal of getting people insured and certainly the lower the cost of insurance, the more likely it is people will sign up. There’s also the goal of allowing insurance companies to recover their cost of covering certain kinds of people and the smoking surcharge is one way of doing that.