Cigarette smokers have rights. No one should be able to tell an adult that she can’t spend her hard earned money on cigarettes. But non-smokers have rights, too. Specifically, they shouldn’t have to pay to subsidize health care costs of people who choose to smoke. In fact, smokers hurt non-smokers by racking up health care expenses brought on by the hazards of their habit.
The folks behind Obamacare thought they’d figured out how to respect everyone’s rights, by giving healthcare insurance companies the ability to charge higher premiums – a surcharge – for smokers, up to 50% higher in some parts of the country. The idea is simple: smokers have the right to smoke, but not the right to pass on the increased cost of their health care to others.
The idea is also dead wrong. Higher insurance premiums price smokers out of insurance markets. When an uninsured smoker gets emergently sick, that means hospitals and clinicians don’t get reimbursed, which forces them to pass those costs on to people with insurance. When insurance companies price smokers out of their products, we all pay.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to the problem. To appreciate the solution, let me expand on the flaws in healthcare insurance surcharges.
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