Health Care Reform: Questions and Answers
How does the "tax" on the uninsured work?
Beginning in 2014, you'll have to indicate on your tax forms whether you have health insurance (and your coverage will need to meet minimal essential benefit standards).
So, if you make more than 133% of the federal poverty limit -- and right now that's $14,856 a year for an individual and $30,657 for a family of four -- the law says you must buy health insurance or pay a penalty on your taxes.
You also won't face a penalty for not buying health insurance if you are a member of a religion that's opposed to health care, like the Christian Scientists, for example; you're a member of an Indian tribe; you're an illegal immigrant; or you're in jail.
There's also no penalty to pay if you don't make enough money to file a tax return, or if buying health insurance would cost more than 8% of your income, after taking into account any employer contributions or tax credits.
Some people will be exempt from having to buy insurance or pay the tax on the basis of financial hardship, including people making just $9,500 a year.
If you don't fall into one of those groups, you'll need to buy insurance.
And remember that many people with low incomes will for the first time get health insurance through Medicaid (meaning they won't pay a premium).
What if I Still Don't Want to Buy Insurance?
If you choose not to buy health insurance, you'll owe an additional amount on your taxes.
In 2014, the fee will be $95 per adult and $47.50 per child up to $285 per family, or 1% of family income, whichever is greater. Those fees more than triple in 2015; and by 2016, adults who don't buy insurance will owe $695 and $347.50 per child, up to $2,085 per family, or 2.5% of family income, whichever is greater.
The good news for people who already buy their own health insurance -- an estimated 18 million Americans -- is that they will be able to get better coverage, and it may cost less, says Sara Collins, PhD, vice president for Affordable Health Insurance at the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation and health research group.