Does the Obamacare Deadline Apply to Me?
by Amy Payne, Heritage Foundation, March 18, 2014
In two weeks, Obamacare’s centerpiece—the individual mandate to purchase government-approved health insurance—kicks in.
Are you “covered,” as the White House keeps asking in its endless advertising? Because if you don’t have health insurance by March 31, you will have to pay a penalty on your income tax form next year.
For 2014, the penalty for not purchasing insurance will be either $95 or 1 percent of your annual income (whichever is greater). But as Heritage expert Alyene Senger explains, “Very few, if any, people will end up paying just $95, because individuals with an annual income of only $9,500 or less would likely qualify for Medicaid or a hardship exemption from the mandate.”
If you don’t make enough income to file a federal tax return, you’re already exempt. Do you think you qualify for a hardship exemption? Check out the application (subject to approval by Health and Human Services) here. For example, did you:
- Receive “a shut-off notice from a utility company”?
- Recently experience the death of a close family member?
- Receive a notice that your health plan was being canceled, and “you consider the other plans available unaffordable”?
At the end of the list, the application form has the catch-all reason “You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.” To prove it? “Please submit documentation if possible.”
Despite all these possible exemptions, The Fiscal Times reports, “A new study by Bankrate.com shows that about one-third of uninsured Americans are going to remain without coverage and opt to pay the penalty.” In fact, more than half of the uninsured are “unaware of the March 31 deadline.”
If you think the penalty is no big deal right now, Heritage’s Senger warns that “The mandate increases drastically in coming years, rising to $325 or 2 percent of income in 2015, and $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016—whichever is greater.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that from 2015 to 2024, the mandate penalty—which the Supreme Court ruled is essentially a tax—is expected to cost Americans $51 billion.
And that was after President Obama promised not to raise taxes on the middle class.
It’s worth mentioning the official name of this tax—because it just doesn’t get any more Orwellian. Really, it’s the left’s ideal name for all taxes: the “shared responsibility payment.”
Get ready to pay up, comrades.
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