Smokers are one of the two groups that can be charged more for Obamacare due to future health risks — the elderly are the other category. Even though smokers are supposed to be charged up to a 50 percent penalty under Obamacare, it is not quite panning out that way.
The problem is due to what has been called a “system limitation” at the Department of Health and Human Services or HHS, which means insurers cannot apply the surcharge to smokers for at least a year.
Under the Affordable Care Act Section 1201, insurance plans that are sold to individuals or small companies are only allowed to alter their premiums by old age or tobacco use. The insurance company can charge three times as much for the elderly and 1.5 times as much for those who smoke.
The HHS is having a difficult time accounting for both of these factors though. Forbes points out that in theory insurers would be allowed to charge a 65-year-old who smokes 4.5 times more than they would be able to charge a non-smoking 25-year-old.
However, currently the HHS computer refuses to make someone pay more than three times the what the cheapest beneficiary pays. The HHS reported that “Because of a system limitation…the system currently cannot process a premium for a 65-year-old smoker that is…more than three times the premium of a 21-year-old smoker,”
If the insurance companies are unable to charge smokers more, they will take it from non-smokers. Considering the healthcare costs associated with smoking, that will be expensive. HHS should fix the problem with their system, but if they cannot, younger non-smokers are going to be subsidizing older smokers. Healthy people will start dropping out of the system because of the burden it places on them.