Nearly three years after the then Democratic-controlled Congress passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care act into law, Americans are still finding out what’s in it. The latest gem is a huge surcharge on smokers that could effectively make their health insurance so expensive that they can no longer afford it.According to the New York Daily News:
The Affordable Care Act — or “Obamacare” — allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.
For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.
Younger smokers could be charged lower penalties under rules proposed last fall by the Obama administration. But older smokers could face a heavy hit on their household budgets at a time in life when smoking-related illnesses tend to emerge.
Younger workers could avoid the surcharge by joining smoking cessation classes and then quitting smoking. So what we seem to have here is a backdoor prohibition on smoking tobacco, using the guise of “affordable healthcare” to accomplish it. Insurers are banned from barring people with pre-existing conditions, and cannot charge overweight people any surcharge. There is no debate that smoking is unhealthy behavior, but it is far from the only unhealthy behavior that remains legal, and ObamaCare appears to single it out while leaving other unhealthy behaviors alone.
The ObamaCare smoker surcharge explicitly discriminates on the basis of age.
First, the law allows insurers to charge older adults up to three times as much as their youngest customers.
Second, the law allows insurers to levy the full 50 percent penalty on older smokers while charging younger ones less.
And finally, government tax credits that will be available to help pay premiums cannot be used to offset the cost of penalties for smokers.
This is one case where the poor and the elderly will be the hardest hit.
The smoker’s surcharge was never discussed publicly during the ObamaCare passage debate. Much of the law was shaped in backroom meetings among Democratic leaders, and most in Congress never read the mammoth bill at all before voting on it. A majority — about 57% — of Americans objected to the law when the Democrats passed it, but were ignored.
Update: And thanks to ObamaCare’s emphasis on moving to electronic medical records, we’re losing vital individual medical information.