Penalties for Smokers? Obamacare Means New Fees for Unhealthy Habits

A new debate is emerging over provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are set to be implemented in the near future. These new rules would allow for insurance companies to add additional charges on premiums for smokers and the obese.

While the outcomes of the new regulations are not totally clear, the total health care cost levied on everyday people is. Currently in the United States the annual health care costs for treating sick smokers is about $96 billion, while the cost for treating the obese comes in just under $150 billion, according to government statistics.

The majority of the costs stem from measures taken by health care professionals to prolong a person's lifespan. The expenses include treatment for diseases brought on by smoking and other lifesaving measures such as surgery and cancer treatment.

But even with doctors varying attempts to save a person life, health figures show that smokers, on average, tend to die about a decade before non-smokers do. The difference increases close to 12 years earlier if a person is obese.

Several provisions in Obamacare allow insurers to charge smokers up to 50 percent more on top of their premiums as a way cover the expected costs of health care for individuals who choose to smoke. Under current laws, insurers are not allowed to charge more for overweight individuals.

However, some opponents of the new measures say that the provisions would do more harm than good and would disproportionally affect the poor and minorities.

Critics suggest that those individuals would be adversely affected because they tend to have higher rates of smoking than more affluent individuals. Some argue that placing another financial burden on those already marginalized would be unfair.

For the poor, it could be more difficult to additional costs because they lack the resources to do so.

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