Obamacare Smokers May Get Premium Break From Computer Glitch

Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013 08:11 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Smokers under "Obamacare" may get a temporary break on high premiums after it was discovered that a computer glitch would limit tobacco-use penalties.

Experts say the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, glitch could take up to a year to fix and, in the meantime, could mean lower premiums for elderly smokers and higher ones for younger people, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Technically speaking, "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." If an insurer tries to charge more, "the submission of the (insurer) will be rejected by the system," a June 28 Health and Human Services Department announcement said.

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But this stipulation is counterintuitive because younger people should have lower premiums because they're generally in better health, some say.

"Generally a 20-year-old who smokes probably doesn't have much higher health costs than someone who doesn't smoke in any given year," Larry Levitt, an insurance market expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Associated Press. "A 60-year-old is another story."

Beginning in 2014, Obamacare will provide health insurance to all people regardless of pre-existing conditions, but the law also allows companies to charge smokers 50 percent higher premiums.

Editor's Note: Do You Support Obamacare? Vote in Urgent National Poll

For example, a 64-year-old non-smoker would pay $9,000 a year for a standard "silver" insurance plan, according to the online Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator.

Under Obamacare, a smoker of the same age would pay more than $4,500 more, bringing the total to nearly $13,600.

Related stories:

Key Obamacare Mandate Delayed; GOP Renews Call for Repeal

Obamacare Rule to Verify Income Levels is Scrapped

WSJ: Obamacare Changes Show Disregard for Law  

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