Obamacare’s Most Regressive Provision Is Still Hurting Poor Americans: The Smoking Penalty


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Nearly a decade after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans still can’t afford health care.

One particularly regressive part of the law, more commonly known as Obamacare, is the smoking penalty, which allows insurers to charge consumers as high as 50 percent more on premiums if they use tobacco regularly. The law allows states to to mandate a lower surcharge, or no surcharge at all if they choose, however, just 10 states have taken such an action, according to healthmarkets.com.

One of the law’s most popular provisions bans insurance companies from discriminating against consumers with pre-existing conditions, the law does allow for some pseudo-exceptions such as age, location, and tobacco use. This penalty disproportionately hits the poor, who smoke at higher rates, making the tobacco penalty the most regressive part of the Affordable Care Act.

Tobacco use is defined as anybody who has used tobacco products four or more times a week at any point within the past six months, according to WebMD.

While it’s not unusual for liberal lawmakers to use the power of the purse to influence behavior, evidence suggests that the tobacco penalty is driving the poor out

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