Friday, February 1, 2013

Under obamacare, it’s Quit smoking or pay the price — literally

Smokers who thought they were getting a sweet deal from ObamaCare may want to think twice before lighting up again. According to a January 24 Associated Press article, one of the many well-concealed provisions of the bill that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Congress had to pass “so that you can find out what’s in it” could make health insurance cost up to 50 percent more for Americans with cigarette habits — especially longstanding ones.

ObamaCare was ostensibly designed to make health insurance affordable to Americans. It prohibits insurers from turning down or charging more to individuals with pre-existing conditions and even certain conditions (such as obesity) that increase the risk of health problems.

However, the one condition that the law does not protect from high insurance rates is nicotine addiction — despite the fact that smoking is associated with a number of serious health problems including heart disease and lung cancer. In fact, it specifically permits insurers to charge higher rates to older smokers than to nonsmokers or even younger smokers. Under the law, older adults in general may be charged up to triple what younger ones are charged. Smokers may, in addition, be charged up to 50 percent more than nonsmokers for their coverage, but younger smokers may be hit with a lesser penalty than older ones. Plus, the subsidies the government provides to offset the cost of insurance purchased on the individual market cannot be applied to the smoking penalty.

With insurers already being forced to accept individuals with pre-existing conditions at (presumably) below-market rates, they will have a strong incentive to price out of the market anyone else who might prove costly.

In a free market, of course, insurers would have the option of turning down individuals who might prove costly or of charging them rates commensurate with their risks. The United States has not had such a market for decades; state and federal mandates have already grossly distorted the insurance market. ObamaCare only piles on more mandates, distorting it even further and making insurance even less affordable.

Then again, as former Representative Ron Paul likes to say, the name of a bill is usually “exactly the opposite of what the bill does.” Who, then, can really be surprised that the Affordable Care Act fails to live up to its moniker?

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