Utah Bill Pushes for Smokers to Pay More for Health Care
Utah lawmaker Paul Ray introduced a bill that would require smokers on Medicaid to pay a higher co-payment. Fox News' Alicia Acuna reports that in 2009, smoking-related illnesses cost Medicaid $104 million in Utah. Republican Rep. Ray believes that charging an additional two or three dollars to people willing to spend money buying cigarettes is fair and will save taxpayer money.
The American Lung Association disagrees with Ray’s assessment, arguing there are better ways to get smokers to quit.
The group thinks that the bill will discourage smokers from going to the doctor, causing more smoking-related illnesses and driving up the cost of healthcare.
Ray doesn’t buy the argument and says it has to start somewhere. Speaking from personal experience, Ray has had four open heart surgeries due to a birth defect from his mother’s smoking during pregnancy. “I’m tired of taxpayers footing the bill for people that are making bad health choices and expecting free healthcare. And then secondly it’s to help people to quit smoking,” he said.
Under the legislation, the co-pay goes away if the recipient enters a smoking cessation program. If Utah passes the bill, the state health department must seek a waiver from the federal government to charge the co-pay. Ray’s next target will be the obese who he believes should also have to pay more for health care.