Under the ACA smokers buying insurance in the Exchanges will have to pay a 50% “Premium Surcharge.” For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. http://news.yahoo.com/penalty-could-keep-smokers-health-overhaul-205840155.html Does this mean that Americans who smoke won’t be able to afford coverage?
No. In the end, most smokers should be able to get health insurance without paying a stiff penalty.
For one, it’s up to individual states as to whether they want to let insurers charge smokers more. By early April of 2013, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts and D.C. had voted to eliminate smoking premiums in their health care exchanges: The American Cancer Society, which is opposed to the surcharge, is working to persuade other states to ban it. (The ACS explains: “We’re anti-smoking, not anti-smoker.”)
I agree with the ACS that the penalty is counter-productive. If it makes insurance unaffordable for some smokers, this means that they won’t have access to smoking cessation programs, nicotine patches and other drugs that could help them quit. Keep in mind that most smokers want to quit, and these programs have proved extremely successful.
The good news is that many Americans who are addicted to nicotine will be eligible for Medicaid. In the U.S. 39 percent of adult smokers live below the poverty level. . Many more live below 133 percent of the poverty level. As states expand Medicaid, they, too, will become eligible for the program. Since Medicaid charges no premiums, they will not pay a premium surcharge.
Meanwhile, new research by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services indicates that including comprehensive tobacco cessation benefits in Medicaid insurance coverage can result in substantial savings for Medicaid. The study found that every dollar spent on tobacco cessation program costs resulted in an average program savings of $3.12, which represents a $2.12 return on investment.
Under the Affordable Care Act all state Medicaid programs are required to cover tobacco cessation medications, beginning in 2014.
Finally smokers who receive health benefits from their employer are likely to find that they don’t have to pay the premium if they join a smoking cessation program.