Obamacare Smokers May Get a Break on Penalties Due to Glitch

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 02:04 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Smokers under "Obamacare," President Obama's health care law, will get a break on penalties next year because of a computer glitch that won't be rectified for at least a year.

The Obama administration is telling insurers that the glitch will limit penalties insurers can charge smokers, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. 

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The glitch adds to mounting issues for Obama's signature legislation.

Last week, the White House announced a one-year postponement of a law that requires larger employers to offer coverage or face fines.

"This was an administration that was telling us everything was under control," health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski told the AP. "Everything was going to be fine. Suddenly this kind of stuff is cropping up every few days."

A Health and Human Services Department document from June 28 noted that the smoker glitch was nothing more than a technical snafu.

"Because of a system limitation ... the system currently cannot process a premium for a 65-year-old smoker that is more than three times the premium of a 21-year-old smoker," the document read.

People who don't have coverage on the job will be able to shop for private insurance, with tax credits to help pay premiums after the Oct. 1 rollout. Small businesses will have their own insurance options.

Depending on how insurers respond to the glitch, younger smokers could face higher-than-expected penalties.

Moe Lane of RedState.com said the glitch is a sign that the administration is not ready for its insurance exchange program. 

"So expect more cuts and tweaks, and jury-rigs, and all of the rest of the slapdash incompetence that has marked this government since January of 2009," Lane wrote. "Because they need to get those exchanges up. And expect that the Obama administration will display whatever pathetic Frankenstein’s monster of an exchange system that they’ve managed to galvanize by October 1st as being the veritable culmination of, and justification for, Western society."

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Related stories:

Obamacare Smoking Penalty of Up to 50% Causes Twitter Stir

Smoking a Pre-Existing Condition for DC Residents Under Obamacare

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