2013-09-26 14:37:27 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 26, 2013): Tuesday, October 1st, will be decision day for many smokers who must decide whether to quit, or face a 50% surcharge on their health insurance rates under Obamacare.
It will also be personal responsibility day since millions of smokers will have to – for the first time – accept personal responsibility for the vastly increased health care costs which previously had been foisted off on the majority who are nonsmokers, notes the man who developed the concept of charging smokers more, obtained legal rulings authorizing it, and helped persuade Congress to include it under Obamacare.
Each smoking worker can cost his employer over $12,000 more annually, according to an actual court opinion, much of it from higher health care costs, so having a smoker pay a 50% surcharge simply requires the worker to finally accept some personal responsibility for a portion of the huge costs his smoking causes;
costs which previously had been borne by his nonsmoking colleagues.
That’s according to public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who first developed the concept of differential health insurance premiums, and obtained two rulings from the government legalizing it; the only adverse health factor – unlike obesity, lack of exercise, etc. – for which employees can be charged more
So, even if the surcharge didn't cause smokers to quit, it's fairer to require those whose conduct causes the costs to bear them than to force the great majority of nonsmoking employees to subsidize the habit.
On the other hand, it is well documented that increasing the costs of smoking – whether through higher taxes, increases in prices brought on by litigation, or otherwise – creates a very powerful incentive for smokers to quit. Indeed, notes Banzhaf, for the great majority of smokers who have yet to suffer medical problems as a result of their smoking, it may be the first concrete incentive they have to quit.
Getting people to quit smoking – something which costs the American economy an estimated $300 billion annually – will of course help slash the number of heart attacks, cancers, strokes, etc. which occur each year, and balloon the nation’s health care costs.
Thus this provision appears to be the only part of Obamacare aimed at actually saving taxpayers money by reducing the incidence of disease – instead of simply shifting the costs to others, or reducing them slightly by making small changes in how these diseases are treated.
Unquestionably, we can save far more money by preventing an occurrence of lung cancer, or a heart attack or stroke, than simply using marginally better techniques to treat it, notes Banzhaf.
Smokers actually may face a double or even triple whammy since the smoker surcharge isn’t covered by tax credits, and insurance rates can be even higher if a spouse or a child over 18 also smokes.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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