Obamacare Might Price Smokers Out Of Health Insurance

Smokers 1

The so-called “Affordable Care Act” isn’t really making health insurance more affordable for anyone. Thanks to clouds of new regulations and mandates, health insurance is going to get more expensive for everyone in the country. But smokers, especially, are going to be hard hit:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama’s health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation.

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.

Some of you might be tempted to say, “So what, it’s just smokers, and they ought to be paying more anyway.” In a way, that’s right. Smoking is bad for you, and insurance companies should have the option of charging smokers more because smokers are likely to cost more in terms of health care dollars.

But there is a very dangerous precedent being set here. Smokers are not paying higher rates because of free market insurance pricing but rather because of government policy specifically targeting them with higher prices intended to manipulate their behavior. The government is trying to make them stop smoking not by banning tobacco but by making smoking so expensive they just quit.

Again, smokers aren’t seen very sympathetically by most of us, but what if the government applied this sort of policy to fat people? What if people over a certain BMI or other measure had to pay a penalty on their insurance? What if the government began implementing policies aimed at manipulating our diet and exercise routines?

Sure, we should all want to be healthy, but shouldn’t we have the option of choosing to be healthy rather than being forced into it through government policy?

This is the danger of collectivizing something like health care. Once health care is a “right,” once we’re all obligated to provide or guarantee health care or health insurance to one another, then we open the door to the collective manipulating the choices of the individual with the excuse that it’s what is best for the collective.

That, my friends, is the road to serfdom.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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