[Rushtalk] 'Obamacare' to hit smokers with huge penalties

Carl Spitzer Winblows at lavabit.com
Sun Feb 24 18:33:59 MST 2013

                 Pay to Sin: 'Obamacare' to hit smokers
                           with huge penalties
                            January 26, 2013

                               Source: RT




Cool SmokerSmokers, beware: tobacco penalties under President Obama’s
Affordable Care Act could subject millions of smokers to fees costing
thousands of dollars, making healthcare more expensive for them than
Americans with other unhealthy habits.

The Affordable Care Act, which critics have also called “Obamacare”,
could subject smokers to premiums that are 50 percent higher than usual,
starting next Jan 1. Health insurers will be allowed to charge smokers
penalties that overweight Americans or those with other health
conditions would not be subjected to.

A 60-year-old smoker could pay penalties as high as $5,100, in addition
to the premiums, the Associated Press reports. A 55-year-old smoker’s
penalty could reach $4,250. The older a smoker is, the higher the
penalty will be.

Nearly one in every five U.S. adults smokes, with a higher number of
low-income people addicted to the unhealthy habit. Even though smokers
are more likely to develop heart disease, cancer and lung problems and
would therefore require more health care, the penalties might devastate
those who need help the most – including retirees, older Americans, and
low-income individuals.

“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.”

Nearly 450,000 US residents die of smoking-related diseases each year,
making the unhealthy habit a serious concern for lawmakers. One
legislator is trying to criminalize smoking in his state, while others
have raised taxes on cigarettes and the Obama administration has tried
to inflict hefty fines upon smokers’ premiums.

Karen Pollitz, a former consumer protection regular, told AP that no
insurers want to provide coverage for Americans who have been smoking
for decades, and that the penalties might prompt people to abandon the

“You would have the flexibility to discourage them,” she told AP.

But quitting is not easy, and charging older smokers up to three times
as much as younger ones could make it difficult for them to seek care in
the first place. A 60-year-old smoker charged with the penalty could be
paying about $8,411 per year for health insurance, which is about 24
percent of a $35,000 income and is considered “unaffordable” under
federal law.

“The effect of the smoking (penalty) allowed under the law would be that
lower-income smokers could not afford health insurance,” said Richard
Curtis, president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions.

Ultimately, the law that is meant to make health care more affordable
could have the opposite effect on older smokers at a time when
smoking-related illnesses usually arise. 

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