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Obamacare “discriminates”

Obamacare “discriminates”

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.]


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casualobserver | November 19, 2013 at 8:49 am

Surely this is no surprise. To my eyes and ears progressives have always defined “good” and “bad” discrimination. It’s why they spend so much time and effort labeling – gender, race, creed, etc. Discriminating against smokers is “good”. Discriminating against a group they define as aggrieved is “bad”. History of bad behavior leading to chronic illness? They will now be a protected class within the healthcare system as long as that behavior is deemed acceptable. Smoking cigarettes is clearly not one.

In fairness, smoking is a voluntary act that is no more a “condition” than drinking. Does ObamaCare discriminate against heavy drinkers? Obviously it should, and for parallel reasons. I wonder what other, liberal friendly activities bear an increased risk of health-care use? Promiscuity/pregnancy/abortion? Homosexuality/AIDS? Isn’t gender reassignment a choice? Drug use is often worse on the body than smoking or drinking. Let’s be fair about this.

Hair splitting aside, it is not “insurance” when someone is guaranteed to get more of a good or service than they are paying for. It’s a subsidy. They only thing such an approach shares with actual insurance is the use of a risk pool to keep the insuror in the black. Good luck getting that right, or retaining any of your customers after you jack up your prices 30% on the second year.

A Sexual Practices Surcharge should be included since certain sexual practices statistically lead to AIDS and all manner of sexually transmitted diseases. In these cases the persons are ingesting bodily fluids and not tobacco smoke, unless of course they smoke after sex then it’s a double moral hazard.

, programmers cannot get the system to make the calculations.

Where did they find those programmers?
Are they programmers at all?

So ObamaCare allowed the insurance companies to pick an item or two to use to discriminate and charge different premium rates, and wrote that into the law.

But due to a program “glitch,” they can’t actually charge different premium rates. And the “glitch” isn’t due to be fixed for at least a year post-implementation – if at all – and anyone who’s done any programming would know that should be one of the easiest “glitches” to fix in this whole mess.

Not to go all tin-foil-hat, but do you think maybe that that’s not so much a “glitch” as a design feature?

hopeforthefuture | November 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I just want to know if there is some way to fight the discrimination against smokers. if preexisting conditions are covered then so should smokers. very obese people will be covered and they keep on eating that junk food and drug abusers are covered and isn’t nicotine a drug. so what can we do to stop this so smokers can afford health care otherwise obamacare will be a death panel against smokers only who will not be able to afford the payments even if they quit because it would be 3 yrs tobacco free before they would even consider putting you to a none smoker status. and the ecig or any nicotine supliment would also give a positive and would still consider you a smoker. this is total discrimination and I thought the dems were supposed to be the party that doesn’t discriminate. Obama had to have agreed to this or it wouldn’t have happened. He can’t blame the insurance companies. they could have gotten there 50 percent increase thru alchohol abuses . drug abuser, the obese so on and made it 10 percent increase for each group. obesity is also now the number one killer even over smokers. check the latest stats. and in the end smokers will not be so much of a burden as they will die on average 13 yrs. sooner and will not put as much of a burden on the soc sec. or medicare for 13 more years as the healthier will while they have their hip implants and heart bypasses and yrs of nursing home care. it is not right. If anyone knows a way to fight this please add it in a comment.

So, someone who has emphysema from years of smoking, but quit smoking 4 years ago, cannot be charged more than a healthy person. Only someone who is smoking (so far that is) can be charged more.

Which means a person who already has a smoking related disease but is no longer a smoker, will have lower rates than a current smoker who is in good health.

Obesity is next of course, and before long, they will use the same methods the ‘evil’ insurance companies currently use to determine rates.

Humphreys Executor | November 20, 2013 at 8:14 am

Overall, smoking saves the Government money. Smokers on average do not collect as much in old-age benefits and are less likely to live out their lives in extended end-of-life nursing home stays which, for the poor, are covered by Medicaid. Plus they pay high taxes on their habit. Every social security check should be accompanied by a voucher for a carton of smokes and a bottle of booze.

Wait until the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency gets those GPS-enabled black boxes in new cars and the government has the ability to track the speed at which you drive and can assemble a database of the places you frequent.

Drive too fast, and your accident won’t be covered either, or you’ll be socked with a speeder’s surcharge. Are you making too many visits to bars? That’ll cost ya. And think again before you disrespect women by stopping off at that massage parlor. It’s for your own good, Citizen!

Now the article does note that the Obama administration has been asked about whether it will use the ubiquitous location data this system will enable to track citizens. The administration says it has “no plans” to do so. Well, I am totally reassured now.