You are here:HomeIssuesHealth Care Reform2013Some States Eliminate Smokers Penalty in Health Exchanges

Some States Eliminate Smokers Penalty in Health Exchanges

The District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange executive board, which is responsible for implementing federal health care reforms in Washington, D.C., has voted to bar insurance companies from charging higher premiums to cigarette smokers...
April 23, 2013

The District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange executive board, which is responsible for implementing federal health care reforms in Washington, D.C., has voted to bar insurance companies from charging higher premiums to cigarette smokers. Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts have also eliminated smoking premiums in their health care exchanges. The Affordable Care Act allows states to impose up to a 50 percent surcharge for people who have used tobacco at least four times a week over the last six months, but Dr. Mohammad N. Akhter, chairman of the city’s health exchange board, said the costs of the surcharge could be prohibitive for poor families. A June 2012 study by the Institute for Health Policy Solutions indicates that the largest impact would be on older couples whose earnings were at 150 percent of the federal poverty line.

David Woodmansee, associate director of state and local campaigns for the American Cancer Society, applauded the move. “Just because people have become addicted to a terrible drug is not a reason to turn our back on them in providing health care,” he said, noting that low-income people are more likely to smoke. “This is the population that needs health care the most,” he said. “We are antismoking for sure, but we are not antismoker.”

Filed under: