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Health Groups Object To Bill Allowing For Higher Premiums For Smokers

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Several health advocacy groups object to legislation that would allow health insurance plans for small businesses to charge smokers higher premiums.

Michael Rollo with the American Cancer Society told members of the House Commerce Committee on Thursday that the bill could double health insurance premiums for many tobacco users.

“The vast majority of the people who smoke are on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, and these are the very same people we’re supposed to be helping under the ACA and you're potentially going to kick them off their insurance plans because they can't afford to pay the higher premiums.”

Representatives from the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association also testified against the proposal.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is behind the bill.

It amends several state laws to comply with new rules under the Affordable Care Act next year.

But the inclusion of the tobacco rating in the small group market is one area where states have flexibility.

Employees in a cessation program wouldn’t have to pay the higher premium, but Rollo says it often takes many years for smokers to quit.

“We don’t have evidence that this sort of carrot and stick approach will help people and I don’t want New Hampshire to be the laboratory to find out, personally.”

Currently, tobacco can be used as a rating factor in the individual market in New Hampshire, but not in the small group market.