An error in the computer system may be of temporary relief to smokers who would ordinarily have to pay high premiums under Obamacare, the administration says.
According to the Obamacare plan, insurance companies will be allowed to charge smokers up to 50% more on premiums than non-smokers. But a technical problem has arisen that will change that.
According to the Health and Human Services Department, "Because of a system limitation ... the system currently cannot process a premium for a 65-year-old smoker that is ... more than three times the premium of a 21-year-old smoker," the industry guidance said. If an insurer tries to charge more, "the submission of the (insurer) will be rejected by the system."
Though the error may prove helpful to some now, many are frustrated with yet another setback in the plan, which has already seen several postponements.
"This was an administration that was telling us everything was under control," health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski told CBS News. "Everything was going to be fine. Suddenly this kind of stuff is cropping up every few days."
The glitch could take up to a year to repair; before, insurance companies were going to be able to charge lower penalties for younger smokers and go higher with the age groups, but now the options are less than desirable for everyone. The administration is suggesting a full, fixed penalty for every smoker no matter what their age, but that would mean a higher cost for those at the younger end of the spectrum and no change for older smokers.