One of the more controversial measures in the Affordable Care Act is the ability for insurance companies to charge tobacco versus non-tobacco users a potential 50% surcharge on premiums. This has started many heated debates.
The theory behind this caveat, is that tobacco users are typically less healthy than non-tobacco users with more instances of heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer, etc. The problem is, there are many things that contribute to health. Could this start a slippery slope as to what they can rate up for? Are overweight people next?
Also, how do they plan to determine who uses tobacco versus who doesn't? Will this be an invasion of privacy? Many whole life insurers already test for this using a mouth swab, but this is for voluntary coverage. How will you feel about having to do this regardless of your tobacco usage status. Also, if you quit smoking, how long will you have to continue to pay the 50% increase?
Furthermore, the 50% increase cannot be offset by subsidies. So, those individuals who are eligible for a government subsidy toward their health insurance premium, will be required to pay this 50% increase from their own pockets. Will this be “affordable” for everyone?
While I am not a tobacco user, this policy makes me nervous because I am “pleasantly plump.” I work out several times a week, and am healthy with no health issues, but I am worried that in the coming years, they are going to rate up people who are overweight. How would you feel if your HR director approached you and said, “I need to weigh you to see if we are going to rate up your insurance premium?” Tobacco users are feeling that crunch now.
If you are a tobacco user, will this encourage you to stop smoking? Is it slightly ironic, that a country that was founded and grew based on the growth of tobacco, is trying to force everyone to quit using it?