Households to Pay $10,500 in “Poll Taxes”

Households to Pay $10,500 in “Poll Taxes”; Could Be Slashed With Simple Approved Measure

poll taxes

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 7, 2020) – Top economists have reported that each American household is required to pay an extra $8000 a year in what they call a “poll tax” because pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, device manufacturers, and doctors unnecessarily drive up the costs of medical care so that the U.S. has the most expensive health care system, although it “delivers the worst health of any rich country.”

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They acknowledge that it will be difficult to change it to be less expensive and/or more efficient because of powerful interests lobbying against any changes which might reduce their incomes.

But Americans also pay an enormous additional tax of about $2500 for each household, which, unlike the larger one, can easily be slashed simply by requiring smokers to pay more for their health insurance, just as they have long been required to do for life insurance, and in some cases for automobile and home insurance, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

According to the American Lung Association, smoking costs the U.S. economy more than $332 billion in direct health care costs and lost productivity every year; a huge expense unnecessarily imposed on all of us by only about 15% of the American population.

Economic impact of smoking

Moreover, since smokers are concentrated in the lowest socioeconomic segment of the population, they are those most likely to receive taxpayer financial support, and the least likely to contribute to the country's economic welfare.

These huge annual costs of this "poll tax" are now borne by the great majority of taxpayers who are not smokers (in the form of additional medical costs under Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans and Indian benefits, and other programs), nonsmokers with health insurance (in the form of bloated premiums and increased deductibles), and workers (in the form of fewer benefits and/or lower salaries).

Indeed, a law suit in which attorney Banzhaf participated proved - with evidence provided under oath by both sides - that a typical smoking employee costs his employer over $12,000 each and every year (in 2019 dollars). Thus, if only 15% of a company's work force are smokers, there is about $1,800 of the cost attributed to those smoking employees which is not available for increased health insurance coverage, higher salaries, or other benefits for each employee.

Imposing personal responsibility on smokers by requiring them to pay for the added costs their smoking imposes would help many to do what most already want to do - quit.  This would slash these unnecessary costs, and help them and their families. Those who don't quit would then pay the costs they now impose on others.

Poll tax costs

This concept, sometimes known as "differential health insurance premiums," has been endorsed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners [NAIC], and has already been put into practice by some companies.  Thanks to two legal actions by Banzhaf, the federal government has approved charging smokers more for health insurance, and a 50% smoker surcharge is part of Obamacare.

So, while reforming our entire medical care and insurance system is very difficult and involves many powerful players, the U.S. could slash this huge smoker tax on each household easily, since it involves, and is caused and imposed on us by, only a tiny segment of the population with only limited political clout.

To those who argue that these huge and unnecessary costs should continue to be paid by all American households, a popular button reads:

"HE'S YOUR MONKEY, SO KEEP HIM OFF MY BACK!"



About the Author

JOHN F. BANZHAF
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D. Professor of Public Interest Law George Washington University Law School, FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor, Fellow, World Technology Network, Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) 2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA (202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418 http://banzhaf.net/ jbanzhaf@law.gwu.edu