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Colorado Springs Gazette: Smokers could be victims of Obamacare Catch-22

Published: February 6, 2013

IF you are a smoker, you may want to take a long drag on your cigarette before reading any further.

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, various analysts uncovered penalties for overweight Americans, higher premiums for workers who don't participate in company wellness programs and, in some cases, who don't meet certain health targets such as recommendations of the Body Mass Index. In other words, the obese may wind up paying penalties for being too fat. Now it looks like millions of smokers could be the victims of an Obamacare Catch-22.

Health insurance coverage is mandated by President Obama's health care law, but the same law allows insurers to charge smokers up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.

For a 55-year-old, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums. As a result, many may not be able to afford their mandatory health insurance — even with government subsidies. So they may be fined for not having health insurance because the government penalized them for smoking.

While President Obama promotes himself as a man of the people, who would equalize disparities among the rich and poor, his health care plan will place disproportionately high burden on some poor Americans. The Centers for Disease Control website shows that nearly 29 percent of adults who live below the poverty line smoke cigarettes. Only 18 percent of adults who live above the poverty line smoke. It's a habit widespread among those who are desperate. Penalties on the behavior will likely only cause additional despair, as bad breaks seldom quell nicotine cravings.

Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act, a tome of more than 900 pages, and get around to reading it sometime later. To this day, relative few have read the law. That's because it's a boring stack of convoluted legalese and most Americans, thankfully, have better ways to spend their time. Besides, it doesn't really matter whether we approve of Obamacare details. Those details are the law of the land, and some bureaucrat will be sure we obey it.

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