Last week, I went to a Heart concert (they were amazing – can’t believe all the songs I knew that I didn’t remember!). So, there I am, sitting with my drink on the lawn and all of a sudden I notice a small gathering of people in front of me taking drags off cigarettes. And WHAT was the first thing I thought? “Wow, those people are going to pay SO much for health insurance!” (I now see the irony of my realization about the costs of smoking at a "Heart" concert!).
I used to work in the retail industry where I had to worry about learning the next trend in shoes or accessories. What will be the “it” boot this winter season? Will Jackie O or aviators be the sunglasses of choice this summer? Now, I’m in the benefits industry and my worries are a bit different. Sheesh!
Smoking is a big healthcare issue in the USA. According to the Centers for Disease Control 19% of all adults smoke. The American Lung Association reports that smoking costs the United States over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker - that’s $355 per month. How would that affect your budget?
Increased healthcare and insurance costs aren’t the only worries of my Heart concert smoker-friends. A recent Charleston Daily Mail article had this to say: In 2009 alone, West Virginia smokers spent $2,121 on cigarettes. Over the next 30 years, the average smoker will spend about $119,000 on cigarettes – that’s roughly equivalent to the cost of buying a small home.
Under Obamacare, for those who get insurance through an employer, being a smoker might not be a big deal in 2014. My guess is that, in the future, employers won’t keep footing the higher bill for smokers and spreading the costs across all employees.
For smokers buying health insurance on their own, through a broker and/or through an “Exchange,” there are 2 main things health insurers can charge more for:
- Age. Older Americans will pay a bit more than the young. Fair, since older Americans typically use the system more than the young.
- Tobacco use. Also fair, considering the numbers I shared at the beginning of this article. A new Gallup pollshows that 58% of Americans support higher premiums for smokers.
So, how will that REALLY affect the wallets of my Heart concert smoker-friends?
On average, smokers will be pay 50% more for health insurance than non-smokers. To illustrate, I used the Kaiser Family Foundation’s interactive subsidy calculator to pull the estimated costs in the charts below. These are what a Single or Family of 4 might expect to pay for a Bronze Level insurance plan (this is the least expensive premium plan available - also the highest deductible and most out-of-pocket expenses).
It’s always more clear when you look at real numbers. So, how can smokers survive Obamacare simply? Quit smoking or prepare to pay up.
Now, it’s your turn! Do you think this is fair or not? Are you a smoker who’s concerned about Obamacare? Comment below!