The insurance business would not be possible without some sort of “discrimination“—as in “the ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment,” rather than “bigotry or other arbitrary distinctions.”

Those with greater risk are usually charged higher than average premiums or are sometimes even refused coverage in the first place, in order to keep premiums reasonable for the rest.

But the Obama administration and liberals as a whole have been using the word “discrimination” in that second manner, to signify something pejorative and/or arbitrary and unfair when referring to health insurance.

They don’t raise a hue and cry because life insurance “discriminates” against the elderly, or because flood insurance “discriminates” against those who live in flood plains. But they refer to health insurance as unfairly discriminatory when, for example, insurers limit coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Compare and contrast these slogans: “Health insurance discriminates against people with pre-existing conditions!” and “Health insurance discriminates against smokers!”  Obamacare “discriminates” against smokers but not those with preexisting conditions.

Smoking, of course, is considered an act of will, whereas being sick is not, although there are certainly other health habits (being a drug addict, to take just one of many) that are just as voluntary or involuntary as smoking and certainly likely to be very damaging to health.

And yet people who engage in those activities are not penalized—and in addition, people who do not engage in those activities are required under Obamacare to carry coverage to treat them.

How much does Obamacare discriminate against smokers? A lot:

The ObamaCare smoker surcharge allows insurers to charge a “tobacco surcharge” which is calculated after subsidies received through the marketplace. Smokers may pay up to 50% more than non-smokers for the same health plans…

Smoking is not a pre-existing health condition under Obamacare. As part of the negotiations to get coverage for those with preexisting conditions, insurance companies got the right to impose on smokers premium costs that are as much as 50 percent higher than the same plan for non-smokers…

The Smoker Glitch is an anomaly in the government’s computer payment computer systems that won’t process the tobacco surcharge correctly and won’t be fixed until at least 2015. While the smoking surcharge can be up to three time the non-tobacco rate, programmers cannot get the system to make the calculations.

Because the smoker surcharge is calculated after subsidies, it also discriminates against people who are poorer, some of whom might even be unable to afford insurance because of it, especially the older poor or older lower middle class.

And wouldn’t they be among the people most in need of health care, and whom you would think Obamacare was designed to help? Six states have prohibited the surcharge (California among them) and two have lowered it, and most people don’t think companies will end up charging the whole 50% more, but it is allowed—although no one will actually experience it till the glitch is fixed, which may be never.

Not only does this discriminate against the poor, but Obamacare must be racist as well, because smoking rates are higher among blacks and native Americans than among whites. Oops!

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]