Monday, January 28, 2013

Like Finding a Godiva Chocolate in a Manure Pit

You may want to sit down for this one: I have actually found something to like in the Affordable Care Act.  Don't call the police to report an invasion of the body-snatchers.  Don't send an ambulance to treat a man suffering from delusion or insanity.  There is actually some semblance of intelligence in ObamaCare.

I'm talking about the measure included in the law that smokers will have to pay more for their health insurance starting next year.  Apparently one of the things that we "had to pass the bill to find out what's in it" is a 50% surcharge on insurance premiums for long-time tobacco users.  There are two things in this that I like:

1--It treats health insurance like real insurance.  Smokers already pay more for life insurance--because they are a much higher risk to suffer an early death.  Reckless drivers pay more for their auto insurance than those without traffic tickets--because they are a higher risk to have an accident.  Yet for decades, health insurers have not been allowed to charge those that put themselves (and therefore the pool) at risk for huge payouts by routinely engaging in behavior--like smoking--that is going to make you very sick.  What's more, those that have been smoking for years will pay a larger surcharge.  Why should the guy who works out, maintains his weight and doesn't smoke or drink to excess pay the same as the overweight guy who doesn't leave the couch except to get another beer from the fridge all night?  That is the way insurance is supposed to work--as a "bet" on whether your are going to need to claim more than what you pay in each year.  It's not meant to be a subsidy for everyone so that they don't have to pay above X % if their medical bills every year.

2--I don't have to pay for this.  Unlike nearly every other component of the Affordable Care Act, the taxpayer will not have to foot the bill for this extra expense.  In fact, it is written into the language of the bill--the taxpayer-funded subsidies that will account for the vast majority of the payments for the policies sold through the health insurance exchanges CANNOT be used to pay for the smoker surcharge.  Who would believe that we would find this precious nugget of personal responsibility hidden in this giant boondoggle?

The articles detailing the smoker surcharge hint at possible higher insurance rates for the obese in the future--as a means to curb the literal growth of America over the past few decades.  But don't hold your breath waiting for that one.  You see, one in five Americans smoke--but one in three Americans are obese--with more than half of the population being at least somewhat overweight.  And those are percentages that scare even the most liberal of politicians.  It's far easier to sell the idea of 1% or 20% "paying their fair share"--than it is to expect 33% or 55% to literally "carry their own weight".

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