Another Obamacare Hiccup: Smoking

SmokeIn junior high school I was known as a “goody two-shoes.”  I don’t smoke, drink or abuse drugs.  I guess that when it comes to substance abuse, I have always been a “nerd” and I am proud of it.

Because I do not smoke, I tend not to pay attention to laws aimed at tobacco users.  It never dawned on me to pay attention to what the potential is for smokers under Obamacare.

At least I did not pay much attention until I read, “Smokers Can Skirt Higher Premiums.”

In this post I will try to explain what is supposed to happen and how smokers can avoid the surcharge.


In addition to adding new benefits, fees and taxes that must be paid through health insurance premiums, congress attempted to limit how insurance companies are able to price their premiums in the PPACA.  One of those limitations applies to smokers.

The same government who sponsors the Centers for Disease Control who has been screaming for years about the health consequences of smoking, has elected to limit the amount that insurance companies can charge smokers to 50% or less of what they charge a non-smoker for the same coverage.

That means that the insurance companies, in order to be compliant with state laws that require them to collect enough money to pay for all anticipated medical bills, will need to raise the standard rate that they charge non-smokers to pay for the extra medical bills they get from smokers who are not allowed to be charged their full cost.


I was raised to tell the truth, even if it meant that it could hurt me.  Obamacare removes “medical underwriting” and “pre-existing condition clauses” from health insurance in 2014.

Ronald Reagan became famous for saying, “Trust but verify.”  He knew that people can lie when it is in their best interest.  He believed in trusting people to tell the truth but protect yourself in case they were lying to you.

When it comes to smoking, Obamacare is long on trust but limits the ability of insurance companies to verify.

Under Obamacare, people are only required to complete an application.  The insurance company is not allowed to decline coverage for anyone based on the answers they give to the health questions on the application.  Neither are they allowed to verify any information they receive.

There will be nothing, on the application, to prevent a person who voluntarily participates in an activity, like smoking, that has been proven to harm their health and increase medical bills, from indicating that they do not smoke.

People who do that will only pay standard rates for health insurance.  They will avoid any premium surcharge.


For the most part, that loop-hole will save smokers hundreds of dollars if all they do is tell “a little white lie.”  After all, what’s the harm?

Here is the harm.  It is called, “Rescission.”  Under Obamacare, insurance companies are not allowed to rescind (cancel) coverage when everything is in order.

However, there is one potential problem.  If you are caught lying about your smoking habits, insurance companies are allowed to charge you, retroactively, the appropriate smoker’s premium

In other words, before you lie about your cigarette use on the application, realize that if you develop lung cancer, heart disease or any other condition that can be attributed to cigarette use, the insurance company will still have the right to collect the appropriate premium from you.


I know how tempting it will be to lie on your application for the Essential Health Benefits if you are a smoker.  Before you do, however, think of the potential problems it could create.

Yes, the premium you are required to pay for government approved health insurance will be lower.  You will be able to make Mr. Obama happy for less money.

However, the hundreds of dollars that you save in premium could very easily turn into thousands of dollars that you that you have to pay in back premiums if you get caught

Each year thousands of people go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City to take a risk.  They understand the risk they are taking but they go anyway.  It is one thing to gamble a few quarters on a slot-machine.  It is a totally different thing to gamble your life’s savings by lying on an insurance application.

My advice is not to even try it.  If you smoke cigarettes, “suck it up” and pay the smoker’s surcharge.  If you develop cancer or heart disease in the future, you will be glad you did.



One thought on “Another Obamacare Hiccup: Smoking

  1. If you are caught, you’ll be charged what you would have paid anyways? How is that risking your life savings? It is not even a risk, since worst case scenario you break even!

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