Insurers can raise premiums for smokers under reform

A rarely talked about provision within the health reform law allows insurers to charge its members who smoke higher premiums than other members starting next year.

Insurers can raise premiums by 50 percent for smokers beginning Jan. 1, which in some cases, could amount to as much as an $700 per month--or $8,400 a year--for certain smoking members, according to the Associated Press.

The problem, say some health policy analysts, is that higher premiums don't adequately entice smokers to quit. Plus, smokers with employer-based insurance can avoid the tobacco penalties if they join a smoking cessation program, which isn't available to individual policyholders, reported the Insurance & Financial Advisor.

What's more, penalizing smokers could unintentionally lead to insurance costs that are too expensive for low-income smokers who could end up uninsured, Louise Norris of Colorado Health Insurance Insider told California Healthline.

But since almost one in five U.S. adults smokes, the added charges can help insurers offset the resulting health outcomes and accompanying costs their smoking members likely will incur.

To learn more:
- read the Insurance & Financial Advisor article
- see the California Healthline article
- check out the Associated Press article

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