Obamacare Smoker’s Penalty Information – 1

Obamacare Smoker’s Penalty Information – 1

Avoiding the Smoker’s Penalty: Tobacco & Obamacare in North Carolina

You may have heard that after Obamacare goes into effect in 2014, smokers will be paying up to 50% more for health insurance than non-smokers. Not all insurance companies in North Carolina will charge a full 50% extra, but they are legally allowed to do so. What you might not know is that smokers who are trying to quit won’t be required to pay the higher smoker’s rates.

NC Smoking Penalty Requirements

Under the Affordable Care Act, tobacco use is defined as smoking an average of four times a week in the past six months. Older smokers, who typically have more tobacco related health problems, will be charged a higher penalty than younger smokers. This penalty is intended to compensate for the cost of additional health issues caused by tobacco use. Individuals who lie about smoking could be charged with fraud and forced to pay back any premiums.

Avoiding the Smoker’s Penalty

North Carolina smokers can avoid paying these penalties by demonstrating that they are trying to quit. One of the best ways to do this is by enrolling in a tobacco cessation program. The Affordable Care Act requires that any insurer who charges a smoking penalty must also offer a tobacco cessation program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has several member programs available to help smokers quit. Contact us to learn more about how you can gain access to BCBS’s interactive online Healthy Living Programs and planning tools. Many of our insurance plans also cover smoking cessation counseling visits.

Obamacare Penalties in North Carolina

Smoking is one of only three factors what health insurers can use to calculate rates. The others are geography and age. This makes the smoker’s health insurance premium penalty a very unique part of Obamacare. In 2014, insurers will be permitted to charge smokers an extra 50% for their premiums and they can charge older customers up to three times more than younger ones. This means that older people who smoke will see the highest health insurance premiums. Most other previous rate premium factors will no longer be legal. For example, insurers will not be allowed to charge women more than men or to refuse coverage or charge higher rates for pre-existing conditions.

Smoker’s Penalty and Obamacare Subsidies

This smoking penalty could hit poor people harder. Only about 18% of adults above the poverty level smoke, while about 29% of those below the poverty level are smokers. For those smokers who are below the poverty line, the majority of their base premium could be alleviated by North Carolina health insurance subsidies. For some smokers who only qualify for a partial subsidy, the tax-credit savings could be canceled out by the smoker’s penalty. None of the subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act cover the additional premium charged to smokers.

Give us a call at 919-285-4732 if you have questions about how the smoker’s penalty could impact your health insurance in North Carolina. We can also help you understand the programs provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and the options you have as a smoker in North Carolina. Or get your quick and easy quote.


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