Millions of smokers could be priced out of healthcare insurance in 2014 when the full implementation of Obamacare allows insurance providers to charge a smokers penalty in an obscure provision of the law.
Many of these smokers will soon wish that the House Democrats, under Nancy Pelosi, had read the bill before they passed it.
The Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” to its detractors — 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.
A higher percentage of lower income people smoke than do higher income people and work in jobs that usually do not have health insurance and would fall under Obamacare. Therefore, many lower income smokers may not be able to afford the 50% higher premiums.
Insurers won’t be allowed to charge more under the overhaul for people who are overweight, or have a health condition like a bad back or a heart that skips beats — but they can charge more if a person smokes.
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 less to younger ones.
And finally, government tax credits that will be available to help pay premiums cannot be used to offset the cost of penalties for smokers.
Remember, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Aug. 11, 2009, President Barack Obama repeated a line he’s used many times in describing his health care proposal: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
Apparently, President Obama didn’t read the provisions of Obamacare either.