24 May 2013
Smokers have it rough according to a new study by a bunch of guys who called convenience stores in each state and asked the average price of cigarettes. For a single pack of Marlboro Reds in 2011, California was ranked #46 in most expensive at $5.19. Last year, through the same cold call analysis, the figure moved up as did California's rank to number #20 at $6.45 a pack. It's expected Los Angeles hipsters and chain-smoking celebrities may drive up the number even more in 2013 since the health insurance exchange, Covered California banned rate hikes for smokers interested in new health insurance plans.
Update: The cig tallymen revealed 2013's prices: a pack in California now costs $6.77, Rank #20.
When Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) passed in 2010, insurers were permitted to charge smokers up to 50% more than non-smokers for monthly health insurance premiums at the state's discretion. The reason seemed just after a study by the Centers for Disease Control estimated smokers, who have increased risks in developing health problems, cost the country over $190 billion in healthcare costs and productivity losses (one too many smoke breaks). Fortunately smokers in California can breathe a sigh of relief (between puffs). Covered California banned charging smokers more and clarified only age, location, and income will affect an health insurance applicant's premium.
Because time makes our body become more susceptible to disease and injury, age is one of a handful of factors which determines the cost for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. In California, for example, an insurer can not charge an older adult of let's say 64-years-old more than 3 times what a 24-year-old pays for health insurance. Where you reside determines how much your premiums will cost, similar to how car insurance rates change by zipcode. Due to Covered California splitting the state into 19 regions, consumers will see a small difference in premium costs according to location. Los Angeles is broken into 2 regions and happens to have the lowest average premiums in the state for Covered California plans. Lastly income plays a huge role in how much health insurance costs. Covered California offers subsidies (tax credits) to qualified individuals and families who make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level in order to lower the costs for health insurance. Click to calculate your subsidy. As you can see, there's no question about smoking status.