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Smokers Won’t Pay Higher Premiums for Health Insurance in California

by Vanessa Jones on April 30, 2013 at 4:18 PM
 Smokers Won’t Pay Higher Premiums for Health Insurance in California

California won't be among those who will charge higher premiums for smoking - even though -smoking - has health risks.

According to federal law, states can charge those using tobacco 50% more for a health plan - although California legislature has passed a bill against doing this.


The Affordable Care Act believes in eliminating any bias of gender or medical condition in the pricing of health insurance for citizens of America. Critics feel that a tobacco surcharge would create a new category for discrimination.

Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation said that smokers would not get the benefit of subsidy through the marketplaces in 2014. For a low income person, a $ 3000 subsidy - when the cost of the policy is $6000 is affordable - a tobacco surcharge on this would thrust it back to $6000.

According to Rick Curtis, president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions in Washington,

"For somebody who is totally hooked after many years and older ... and those kinds of people are more expensive and often do need more medical care, they have two bad choices: go without health insurance and be impoverished that way, or get health insurance and be impoverished."

Weinberg a health Policy analyst says yes to higher insurance premiums for tobacco users — as long as they're not too high — as they provide the type of financial penalties that studies say cause people to quit smoking. By contrast, he says, banning higher rates because smoking disproportionately affects the poor reflects paternalistic policymaking that does nothing to fix the problem.

"I think we have to be very careful what types of favors we're doing for people. Because if the end results of this policy is greater numbers of smokers, then that's not actually helping the populations that we're trying to help," he says.

California Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan disagrees. He's a Sacramento pediatrician who wrote the legislation. Pan believes rate increases of any amount on smokers' premiums may dissuade some from buying health insurance altogether.

"We want smokers to actually have health care coverage," he says. "And through having health care coverage they will have access to smoking cessation treatment as well as, of course, health care for not only smoking-related but even their nonsmoking-related illness."

This makes sense to those in California - that it is essential to provide tobacco users with affordable health care rather than hike their premiums making it difficult to quit smoking.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and District of Columbia are among others who don't charge smokers a higher premium.

References :

Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)

Stephanie O'Neill, April 2013

Source: Medindia
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