PORTLAND -- As the nation's insurance companies plan for the federal Affordable Care Act when it kicks in next year, insurers are planning what it will cost for coverage.
One thing that will change is a chance for Oregon insurers to charge more for those who smoke.
Jonathan Coolidge is someone who could benefit from the act when it takes affect next year. But, because he smokes, he could pay more for that privilege.
Oregon insurers now can add a surcharge up to 50 percent more for smokers. Insurance companies have filed their rate plans with the state to be approved by July 10.
Many smokers and non-smokers are divided on the increase. Only one provider, Pacific Source, plans to increase its rate for smokers the full 50 percent.
The proposed rate for someone 55 years old would jump from $502 a month to $673, a $2,000 a year increase.
“People might take note of that, then quit smoking,” said Sue Beardwood in Portland.
But the American Lung Association disagrees.
“There's not enough proof to show that the surcharge actually helps people to quit and reduce smoking rates,” said Colleen Hermann-Frazen with the American Lung Association.
Hermann-Franzen said it can make insurance unaffordable affecting the entire family.
“They have clear studies that smokers cost more,” said Dan Neils with Agape insurance Services.
But, Neils said some companies use higher rates for other reasons.
“The insurance companies that don't really want to insure smokers; they’ve created a mechanism so that they'll get a healthier pool of people signing up,” he said. “They do all want to see you stop smoking, not because they're charitable, because it helps the bottom line if people stop smoking.”
Oregon's exchange program is called Cover Oregon. While the website is up and running, insurers rates will be posted July 10.