DC joins several states classifying smoking as a “pre-existing medical condition” under ObamaCare
posted at 12:41 pm on April 10, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
Under ObamaCare, insurers have the option of charging smokers up to 50 percent more to cover the associated higher costs of providing them with health care — but the District of Columbia, along with several other states, have decided that any plans being sold within their exchange are prohibited from adding tobacco surcharges. That simply wouldn’t be fair, you see:
On Monday, the D.C. exchange’s executive board voted to prevent insurers from charging higher premiums to smokers than to nonsmokers — meaning nonsmokers are likely to pay modestly higher rates than if smoking surcharges were permitted. The District joins three states — Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont — that have banned tobacco surcharges on their own exchanges. …
The surcharge ban applies to health plans sold within the exchange, which is set to open Oct. 1 and must be used by individuals and, if the D.C. Council endorses a previous board recommendation, employers covering up to 50 people. Larger employers purchasing outside the exchange would be able to choose plans that charge smokers more. …
In a statement, Akhter referred to tobacco use as a “pre-existing medical condition” and added that charging smokers more would be “in direct conflict with our efforts to help people quit smoking.”
Ah, the myriad joys of socialized medicine: No one person is really responsible for the costs and consequences of their decisions, while the Faceless Taxpaying Everyman (i.e., you) takes on an ever-increasing burden.
That’s pretty much the point of ObamaCare, though, isn’t it? The legislation completely corrupts the basic idea of health insurance — i.e., pricing out risk — by forbidding insurers from doing so accurately and charging accordingly, and the states nixing smoking surcharges from their exchanges are just hurrying that along. As Kevin Williamson puts it at NRO:
As expected, the definition of “preexisting condition” is proving infinitely malleable, with behaviors born again as conditions. If smoking is a condition, then drug addiction is a condition, self-mutilation is a condition, a penchant for BASE jumping is a condition, juggling ampules of penicillin-resistant syphilis — practically anything qualifies as a condition under such a plastic understanding. …
Obamacare is designed to destroy the insurance market. Markets do not function without prices, and Obamacare ensures that prices will not be allowed to emerge. There is a medical price associated with smoking, but the District of Columbia has decided to suppress that price by law. Pretending that smoking has no relationship with health-care costs does not make it so — it is only a way to push costs around in a way that is agreeable to the likes of Barack Obama, converting a system that prices risk into a system of entitlements.