Opinion: We are facing a national firearms fee

Imagine being forced to pay a yearly fee because you are a gun owner. Imagine having an unelected bureaucrat, or even a clerk from a private company, deciding that you must dispose of certain of your firearms or face legal and financial issues. Imagine this all happens with no change in the law, no vote, and no debate. This is the stuff of nightmares for gun owners.

Yet it is happening while we are awake and inattentive.

Health care issues touch every part of our lives. They are also deeply personal. We think nothing of undressing in front of our doctors, sharing our most secret and personal concerns, and depending upon them for our future well being. For these reasons, our health has always been considered our own business.

Until now.

The ACA, also known as Obamacare, has taken much of the privacy, choice, and trust out of our relationships with our health care providers. It also seems destined to make things far more complicated and expensive for us all. Yet for gun owners it holds the potential to additionally complicate and increase the expense of making use of our Second Amendment rights.

As with all such things, it starts innocently enough.

If you are a smoker, your insurance company is allowed to charge as much as 50% more in premiums to cover you, because smoking is considered a behavioral risk factor, and has been approved for a surcharge. There have been suggestions and initiatives to also create surcharges for soft drink users. These initiatives are not for the passage of new laws or amendments. These are suggestions for bureaucratic actions which take place with no debate or vote.

The law also permits some other forms of rate discrimination. That’s the problem.

At the heart of this are the HIPAA regulations, known popularly as the healthcare portability act, passed in 1996 under the Clinton Administration. This legislation was presented as a protection for workers who changed jobs, and thus might be liable to loss or restructuring of benefits. HIPAA specifically prohibits certain types of discrimination and does not allow certain factors (gender, race, pre-existing conditions) to be considered when setting rates for individuals. It also does not allow for charging different rates to individuals in group plans.

Or does it?

HIPAA sounds like a great protection, at first glance, yet exceptions are allowed, and where expectations are allowed they will be taken by insurers. This can be a problem for gun owners because while certain lifestyles and conditions are protected, the cost of insuring the people who fall into these categories does not go down. The difference can only be made up by finding and requesting exceptions to be permitted elsewhere.

When taken in concert with Obamacare, this poses a real threat. Imagine car insurance treated in a similar manner, where driving and accident record (pre-existing conditions) could not be taken into consideration, no one could be refused coverage, and insurance companies were limited as to how much they could charge.  Add to this a government agency which could make exceptions to these rates, and stir some partisan politics into the mixture.

Think this is not a threat to gun owners? Think again.

Certain insurance companies already refuse insurance coverage for homeowners who own certain types of guns, and greatly increase premiums for “approved” gun owners who retain policies. In cases where gun ownership is not a basis for withholding coverage, insuring a firearms collection against theft can cost as much as 10% of its value each year in addition to increasing the rate for liability and accident coverage. In such circumstances, the homeowner has the option to not insure his firearms, or to even not list them among his property. His guns will be uninsured; but of course this is his choice.

There is no longer a choice with health insurance.

Though there is a challenge headed for The Supreme Court this month, for now it is illegal not to have health insurance. Additionally, the ACA permits the government to dictate to insurance companies the level of insurance they must provide, and the rates they may charge. Exceptions may be made, according to HIPAA rules, by the Department of Health and Human Services, and this is where gun owners should be concerned.

The Department of Health and Human Services may define what constitutes a health issue relevant enough to permit a surcharge to the government mandated rates insurers may charge. This makes the secretary, appointed rather than elected, a very powerful person due to the broad range of issues that could affect health and mortality. As of this writing, smoking, obesity (as defined by the BMI tables), as well as sugar, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels can be used as justification for a surcharge, because they have been declared health issues influenced by behaviors.

So is the issue of gun control a health issue? I don’t think so; but the case is easily made by those with an anti-gun agenda. Certainly firearms can kill and maim. Both the CDC and the NIH have attempted to define firearms as health risks, as has the AMA. Should such recommendations be taken seriously, or used as an excuse by an anti-gun surgeon general or other member of the administration, insurance companies would then be allowed to collect extra fees from gun owners.

Information could be gained easily enough, through the registry kept by some states, or through the database of CCW holders in states that issue permits. Or the insurance companies could simply require us to provide such information. Refusal to answer, or discovery that false answers are given could be grounds for fines and fees leveled by the insurance companies. False answers might even make us liable for charges of fraud.

For the nanny state liberals, gun control is the sleeping giant they dare not rouse. So they continue to make quiet efforts to bind and smother without awakening. Giving arbitrary decision making power to appointed bureaucrats is one way they have found to do this.

Wake up.

 (Cover photo: Reuters)

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.