Click for St. Louis, Missouri Forecast

// a href = ./ // St Louis News, Weather, Sports, The Big 550 AM, St Louis Traffic, Breaking News in St Louis

Online pharmacy:fesmag.com/tem

Have you a sex problem? Please visit our site:fesmag.com/medic

Site map
 
 
 

A BREAK FOR SMOKERS? GLITCH MAY LIMIT PENALTIES

Rate this item
(0 votes)
A BREAK FOR SMOKERS? GLITCH MAY LIMIT PENALTIES AP
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some smokers trying to get coverage next year under President Barack Obama's health care law may get a break from tobacco-use penalties that could have made their premiums unaffordable.

The Obama administration - in yet another health care overhaul delay - has quietly notified insurers that a computer system glitch will limit penalties that the law says the companies may charge smokers. A fix will take at least a year to put in place.

Older smokers are more likely to benefit from the glitch, experts say. But depending on how insurers respond to it, it's also possible that younger smokers could wind up facing higher penalties than they otherwise would have.

Some see an emerging pattern of last-minute switches and delays as the administration scrambles to prepare the Oct. 1 launch of new health insurance markets. People who don't have coverage on the job will be able to shop for private insurance, with tax credits to help pay premiums. Small businesses will have their own insurance markets.

Last week, the White House unexpectedly announced a one-year postponement of a major provision in the law that requires larger employers to offer coverage or face fines. Officials cited the complexity of the requirement as well as a desire to address complaints from employers.

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

A June 28 Health and Human Services Department document couched the smokers' glitch in technical language:

"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 industry guidance said.

If an insurer tries to charge more, "the submission of the (insurer) will be rejected by the system," it added.

Starting in 2014, the law requires insurance companies to accept all applicants regardless of pre-existing medical problems. But it also allows them to charge smokers up to 50 percent higher premiums - a way for insurers to ward off bad risks.

For an older smoker, the cost of the full penalty could be prohibitive.

Premiums for a standard "silver" insurance plan would be about $9,000 a year for a 64-year-old non-smoker, according to the online Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator. That's before any tax credits, available on a sliding scale based on income.

For a smoker of the same age, the full 50 percent penalty would add more than $4,500 to the cost of the policy, bringing it to nearly $13,600. And tax credits can't be used to offset the penalty.

The underlying reason for the glitch is another provision in the health care law that says insurers can't charge older customers more than three times what they charge the youngest adults in the pool. The government's computer system has been unable to accommodate the two. So younger smokers and older smokers must be charged the same penalty, or the system will kick it out.

That's not what insurers had expected. Before the glitch popped up, experts said the companies would probably charge lower penalties for younger smokers, and higher penalties for older ones.

"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," said Larry Levitt, an insurance market expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "A 60-year-old is another story."

The administration is suggesting that insurers limit the penalties across all age groups. The HHS guidance document used the example of a 20 percent penalty.

In that case the premium for a 64-year-old would be about $10,900, a significant cut from the $13,600 if insurers charged the full penalty.

It's unclear what insurance companies will do. A spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group, said insurers were aware of the issue and expected the administration would fix it eventually.

Another workaround for the companies would be to charge the full penalty to both younger and older smokers. In that case, there wouldn't be any savings for older smokers, and younger ones would see a big price shock.

Levitt said he suspects insurers would keep the penalties low to sign up more young people. Laszweski said he thought they would do the opposite.

"It's going to throw cold water on efforts to get younger people to sign up," he said.

Workers covered through job-based health plans would be able to avoid tobacco penalties by joining smoking cessation programs because employer plans operate under different rules. But experts say that option is not guaranteed to smokers trying to purchase coverage individually.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Last modified on Tuesday, 09 July 2013 07:10

Latest News

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
Prev Next
STL Co. offering free flu shots

STL Co. offering free flu shots

Flu season is upon us, and health officials say St. Louis County is being hit hard.  More than 800 flu cases have already been reported in the county and almost half the vi...

Officials urge parents to get kids vaccinated

Officials urge parents to get kids vaccinated

   SPRINGFILED, IL (AP) - State health officials are urging parents to make sure their children have received all their recommended vaccinations.    The Illinois Department of Pub...

NEW LYME DISEASE ESTIMATE: 300,000 CASES A YEAR

NEW LYME DISEASE ESTIMATE: 300,000 CASES A YEAR

ATLANTA (AP) -- Lyme disease is about 10 times more common than previously reported, health officials said Monday. As many as 300,000 Americans are actually diagnosed with Lyme ...

KIDS WITH SEIZURES USE POT AS TREATMENT

KIDS WITH SEIZURES USE POT AS TREATMENT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- The doctors were out of ideas to help 5-year-old Charlotte Figi. Suffering from a rare genetic disorder, she had as many as 300 grand mal sei...

STUDIES TAKE EARLY LOOK AT HEALTH LAW'S PREMIUMS

STUDIES TAKE EARLY LOOK AT HEALTH LAW'S PREMIUMS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law won't be cheap, but cost-conscious consumers hunting for lower premiums will have plenty of options, acco...

STIGMA HINDERS EFFORTS TO COMBAT LEPROSY IN INDIA

STIGMA HINDERS EFFORTS TO COMBAT LEPROSY IN INDIA

TAHIRPUR, India (AP) -- At first, Ashok Yadav ignored the patches of pink skin on his arm. But when pale sores erupted on his body and he lost sensation in his fingertips, a doc...

Dick Van Dyke health mystery - he asks public for help solving

Dick Van Dyke health mystery - he asks public for help …

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dick Van Dyke is seeing doctors for an undiagnosed health problem, and he's seeking advice online as well.    "My head bangs every time I lay down," the 87-year...

© 2013 KTRS All Rights Reserved