A little-discussed provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill could allow insurers to charge American smokers premiums up to 50 percent higher than those paid by nonsmokers.
According to The Associated Press, beginning Jan. 1, insurers will have the option of charging older smokers additional insurance fees that would add thousands to their yearly health insurance costs. A 50-year-old smoker would likely pay nearly $4,250 in additional fees each year. At 60, the cost would rise to $5,100.
Younger smokers would also be subject to the additional costs but face less harsh penalties.
Workers who are covered under an employer health plan could avoid the penalties. But those who must purchase health insurance because of Obama’s individual mandate would be subject to the abusive penalties from insurers.
Obamacare disallows insurance companies to turn away people for being obese or having previously existing health problems. Some watchdog groups say that the high premiums for smokers will lead to many people in need of health insurance the most opting out because of budget constraints.
“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, an expert on individual health insurance markets with the Kaiser Family Foundation told AP. “You would have the flexibility to discourage them.”
Some States are working on legislation to limit how much insurers are allowed to penalize aging smokers.