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Smokers Insured Through Individual Plans Charged More, Without Cessation Help

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Under the Affordable Care Act, smokers can be charged a higher premium than nonsmokers. Smokers who obtain their insurance through an individual plan will not benefit from a provision in the law that allows smokers in small group plans to avoid the higher premiums if they participate in a smoking cessation program, NPR reports.

Under the law, new individual and small group health plans can charge up to 50 percent higher premiums for smokers starting in 2014. Small group plans, which include companies that employ up to 100 people, can implement the increase only if they also offer a wellness program that helps people quit smoking. The same protection is not available to people obtaining insurance through individual plans.

Six states and the District of Columbia have decided not to implement the smoking surcharge for anyone. Several others will limit the premium increase to less than 50 percent.

A study published this year by Rand Health found about half of employers with 50 or more workers offered a wellness program last year. More than three-quarters of employers providing lifestyle management programs offered one related to quitting smoking.

Earlier this year public health groups including the American Cancer Society objected to the increased premium for smokers, saying the high cost could make health insurance too expensive for smokers, who are disproportionately low income.

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