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Pennsylvanians sound off on Obamacare: Penalty won't be enough to make smokers kick habit

Sterling Carlisle

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Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

For health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Sterling Carlisle and thousands of other smokers will have to pay an annual penalty of hundreds of dollars.

Yet Carlisle doesn't think that will be enough to deter many people who are addicted to cigarettes. Pack-a-day smokers in Pennsylvania pay more than $2,400 a year toward their habit.

The law will keep smokers from paying higher insurance premiums as a result of pre-existing conditions.

“It sounds fair,” said Carlisle, 24, of Highland Park. He pays about $200 a month for individual health insurance, provided through his employer, and would want to see whether online, government-run insurance exchanges offer a better price.

Exact rates through the exchanges will hinge on a participant's age, location and income, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won't release those prices until Tuesday.

Government figures show smokers' premiums could run as much as 50 percent higher than regular individual rates. The difference could amount to an effective smoking penalty of $1,500 or more each year.

— Adam Smeltz

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