Source: The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, 19 Au­gust 2012

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Pri­vate health in­sur­ers have failed in a push to charge smok­ers higher pre­mi­ums. While the fed­eral government tri­umphed over big to­bacco, the Min­is­ter for Health, Tanya Plibersek, said smok­ers should not be pe­nalised with higher pre­mi­ums – and peo­ple should pay the same re­gard­less of the state of their health. She ruled out al­low­ing the health funds to charge smok­ers more. The government cel­e­brated the High Court's de­ci­sion to back its tough plain-pack­ag­ing laws. The government hopes the move will fur­ther drive down Aus­tralia's smok­ing rate from 15% to 10% of the pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, it has no ap­petite to do this by chang­ing the pri­vate health in­surance sys­tem so that peo­ple who smoke would pay more for health­care. One ar­gu­ment against charg­ing smok­ers more is that they could be priced out of the pri­vate health mar­ket and rely more heav­ily on the al­ready stretched pub­lic sys­tem. But Mr Fitzgib­bon said the af­ter­math of the High Court's de­ci­sion pro­vided a good op­por­tu­nity to re­con­sider the prin­ci­ple of com­mu­nity rat­ing.

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