Obamacare Punishes Smokers: Why not the Promiscuous?

Obamacare outlawed underwriting by health insurance companies. In other words, if we are diagnosed with cancer, run 10Ks, have diabetes or a family history of heart attacks, we all pay the same price.

Fine. But there is one big exception. Smokers, who can be charged a huge insurance surcharge for their unhealthy habit. From the AP story:

If 1 in 5 U.S. adults smoke, and 1 in 3 are obese, why not just get off their backs and let them go on with their (probably shortened) lives? Because it’s not just about them, say some health economists, bioethicists and public health researchers. “Your freedom is likely to be someone else’s harm,” said Daniel Callahan, senior research scholar at a bioethics think-tank, the Hastings Center…

That’s the rationale for a provision in the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” to its detractors – that starting next year allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.

Living unhealthy lifestyles has become the new Scarlet Letter. That’s what happens with centralized health care. But once we go down that road, it won’t end there. Smokers today, the obese tomorrow.

This financial stick is entirely political. Notice we never hear experts wanting to “punish” the promiscuous for the cost burden they inflict on the health care system. Yet people who sleep around, like smokers and the obese, cost the rest of us plenty–what with promiscuity leading to sexually transmitted diseases, some cancers, HIV, unwanted pregnancies, mental health issues, etc. Why isn’t what is good for the goose also good for the gander?

That won’t happen because society celebrates promiscuity and the popular culture glamorizes licentious lifestyles the way it once extolled smoking. Consider: Girls. We applaud basketball players who sleep with 20,000 women. We ooh, and ah over Reality TV celebrities, with no talent other than living provocatively before the camera, who sleep around and get very publicly pregnant. We even tend to think something is wrong with virgins who are older than 18.

If we are going to outlaw underwriting, it should apply across the board. But if we are going to punish unhealthy lifestyles with higher insurance premiums, that too should apply across the board. After all, “equality” is the new buzz word, right?  

(Don’t get me wrong: I certainly support incentives for healthier living–as Whole Foods does by giving healthy-living employees deeper store discounts. But financial sticks to the side of the head imposed by Obamacare regulators based, in part, on political correctness? Absolutely not.)

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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