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Older Smokers Catch a Break from Obamacare

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A computer glitch means that smokers ages 50 to 64 might not have to pay as much for individual health insurance policies purchased through the new Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) marketplaces in 2014 as they otherwise would.

According to Obamacare rules, ­insurers are allowed to charge people in their 50s or early 60s no more than three times as much as they charge 21-year-olds for similar coverage. Insurers also are allowed to charge smokers as much as 50% more than nonsmokers.

But the implementation of these rules hasn’t gone exactly as expected. Insurers generally do not charge young ­smokers significantly higher premiums than young nonsmokers, because smoking-related health problems tend not to develop until middle age or later. So when insurers tried to charge older smokers 50% more than older nonsmokers, as they are allowed to, the government’s computers rejected their prices for being more than three times the amount they were charging 21-year-old smokers for the same coverage.

Net result: Smokers in their 50s and early 60s likely will pay somewhat less for insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces than they otherwise would have in 2014.

Smokers in their 50s and early 60s should not view this computer glitch as an excuse to keep smoking—they should view it as a temporary reprieve that makes this an excellent time to quit.

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Source: Carrie McLean, director of customer care at eHealth, a health insurance information provider and online marketplace, Mountain View, California Date: November 1, 2013 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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