You know smoking is bad for your health. It is the “leading cause of preventable death in the United States,”according to the Centers for Disease Control. And you know cigarettes are getting more expensive with increases in the cigarette taxes. Now your wallet may be taking a harder hit because of your smoking habit, this time in the area of health care costs. Those smokers who buy their own individual insurance policy could see their policies go up by 50% in 2014. The higher rates are all part of The Affordable Care Act, and they hit smokers hard.
Smokers, in general, could be paying a penalty in addition to a higher premium than non-smokers. Penalties for younger smokers could be lower than for older smokers, which would make sense since older smokers start to develop more health-related issues due to smoking as they age. To get an understanding what this might mean for your wallet, a 55 year old smoker could be paying an additional $4,250 in penalties a year above the cost of the premiums. Although federal tax credits would bring down the cost of the insurance, the tax credits can not be used to offset the penalty.
If you are lucky to have insurance through your employment, you could avoid the penalties by joining a cessation program. But avoiding penalties by joining a cessation program is not guaranteed if you are purchasing your own individual policy. Many employers currently charge a monthly penalty to smokers, but those penalties are far less than the 50% under the Act. Charging the maximum would discourage more smokers to quit and decrease insurance payouts for employers. Currently, the School District of Palm Beach County charges $50/month for smokers in addition to their premium amount.
Whether you are a smoker or not, changes are coming to health care. Smokers will be paying a higher premium and penalty for their habit. It’s more than just your health at stake, it’s the health of your wallet too. Can you really afford not to quit?