ObamaCare is on everyone’s mind.
My clients often ask me “What do I have to do to be compliant?” The only thing that applies to 2014 is what’s called the Individual Mandate (AKA shared responsibility provision). Which means you as an individual must have health insurance. If you don’t, you pay a penalty.
The other question I get asked is “What does it mean if I don’t have health insurance? What will ObamaCare cost me?” If you didn’t have insurance at any point in the year, you’re exposed to the penalty. If any member of your household was not covered under insurance at any point in the year, they’re exposed to the penalty. If you had health insurance that was not sufficient for what they call the Bronze Level of Coverage, you’re exposed to the penalty.
So, you start from the premise that if you didn’t have health insurance you have a penalty. If you have weak insurance, you have a penalty.
If you are exposed to the penalty, there are six exceptions that, if they apply, can help you get out of the penalty.
You’re a member of a recognized health care sharing ministry.
You’re a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe.
You qualify for religious exemptions due to religious conscious. This is a specific list that includes, among a few others, the Amish.
You went without coverage for less than three consecutive months during the year, so you will not be responsible for the fee for those months.
Your income is below the threshold for filing taxes (in 2012, $9,750 for a single person and $27,100 for a married couple with two children).
You have suffered a hardship that makes you unable to obtain coverage (homeless, house foreclosure, experienced domestic violence, unexpected increase in necessary expenses due to providing care to an elderly family member, etc).
If you don’t meet any of the exemptions above, you have to pay a penalty of $95 per month for every month you are without insurance or 1% of your income, whichever is greatest, due when you file your taxes.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching the Affordable Care Act and I’ve found that for the most part, the penalty is administered on the honor system. There are currently no provisions in the law that allows the IRS to collect from you. It’s voluntary shared responsibility. The IRS doesn’t have the legal right to make you pay the penalty. The money collected from these taxes goes towards funding ObamaCare and subsidizing hospitals that will have to cover unpaid emergency room visits.
The Health Insurance Marketplace closed March 31st, 2014 and opened again on November 15th, 2014. Getting covered during the annual open enrollment period will ensure that you avoid paying the tax. Make sure you get a plan during open enrollment if you do not qualify for an exemption from ObamaCare’s tax penalty.