Obamacare Fines: Not Prohibitive for Some

By: Shana Norris - September 26, 2013

WIth less than a week to go before Americans can start signing up for and buying health insurance through exchanges provided by the controversial Affordable Care Act (ACA), many are seeking to understand the penalties that will be levied on those who opt to go without insurance.

The enrollment period opens up October 1 and continues through the end of March for 2014 coverage. Despite the fact that open enrollment continues through March, however, people who haven’t signed up by December 15 risk incurring a penalty.

US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said that ” … these new options will finally make health insurance work” with the budgets of millions of Americans who have previously been unable to afford health insurance premiums.

But what about those who decide that even with the income-based subsidies provided by the ACA, they just can’t spare the extra money for premiums?

The ACA requires nearly everyone to either buy health insurance or pay a penalty. This provision has came to be known as the “individual mandate.”

It’s one of the more controversial aspects of the ACA. It was challenged in the Supreme Court last year as unconstitutional, but the court upheld it on the basis that the individual mandate is essentially a tax, which as we all know is a right afforded our government under the Constitution.

So, if you opt to incur the penalty instead of buying insurance, how much will you pay?

You’ll get a bit of a break the first year. For 2014, you’ll pay $95 per uninsured adult* in the household (capped at $285 per household) or 1% of the household income over the filing threshold, whichever results in a larger fee. For now, the filing threshold is $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a family.

In 2015, that changes to $325 per uninsured adult* (capped at $975) or 2% of the household income over the filing threshold.

By 2016, the amounts will be upped to $695 per uninsured adult* (capped at $2,085 per household) or 2.5% of household income over the filing threshold.

*The penalty is half the amount for those under age 18.

Taking the penalty will be the less expensive option for many such as these CNNMoney readers.

But some worry that the ACA has set the fine too low, making it too attractive an option for the young and healthy, who don’t necessarily need insurance to the extent that the elderly and infirm do. They speculate that this lack of healthy participants in the healthcare exchanges will throw the entire system off balance.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

Shana NorrisShana Norris is a writer, reader, runner, coffee guzzler, and chocolate inhaler who dreams of becoming an Avett Brothers groupie. You can follow her on Twitter, Google +ShanaNorris, and Pinterest or on her blog at ShanaNorris.net.

View all posts by Shana Norris
  • Jim Hodges

    The American people have not yet figured out that this is the
    Biggest TAX HIKE in the history of the world. I AM 78 yrs old an
    I have seen how the Gov can change the rules when ever they want to
    and there is nothing people can do about it as they slowly, So while
    They may start you off with relatively small FEE’s in just a few
    years Poor people Will be going to Jail for TAX evasion. I really
    worry for my grandkids & great grand Kids.

    • Wayne Nolte

      I’m with you %100 Mr. Hodges! I was born in 1950 and in no way is this the country I was born in.I admire you for not hiding behind some user name bit proud of who you are and what you stand for!

  • http://webpro jan

    Just received info from State concerning the Affordable Care Act.
    Cost was given for 27 year old and family of 4. I was on the State High Risk Health Insurance Plan. Wow – it is affordable!!!!!! Why did I hear all those negatives from Fox and the Republicans??????

    • Rocco

      A better question is: why did you try to mislead and lie? Americans who have researched this know this is a dirty rotten law; our Tea Party is trying to get rid of it and you are against that? What kind of person are you?

    • porgie tirebiter

      jan…you quite simply are a liar. That comes very easily to liberals.

    • Uncle Dave

      What does “affordable” mean to you Jan? My guess is its “affordable” because we, the taxpayers, are subsidizing it for you. What state do you live in? I would like to research this myself. How much do you have to pay? And which plan are you saying is “affordable” for you?

  • http://yahoo john dove

    I will not get obamacare and will not pay the fines I am not going to allow obama the dicktator threat me with this TAX which is not Constitution We are not living under the British and being forced to pay this TAX I rather sit in jail for the rest of my life I WILL NOT GET THAT DAM OBAMCARE CRAP FROM THAT DAM OBAMA

    • js

      I fully understand your sentiment.
      However, as you may well know, to make sure that there will be compliance our mighty dictator has hired another 10,000 IRS ‘folks’ who will make sure that everybody pays the fine. And… as you may also know, if you have/own anything…the IRS can take it (that even includes Social Security benefit payments).
      Therefore, they have got us by the balls….
      Though that jail idea may not the worst idea for some elderly person..Just make sure it’s a Federal ‘joint’ as I understand those facilities to be much nicer setups.
      3 served’squares’ a day, and free dental and health care !

  • Michael F

    What I have a question about is, I am Disabled, I get Medicare (Which of course I have to pay) now if I pay ALL of my bills (Living expenses) I am almost $200 in the hole (Negative) which takes a lot of paying late and skipping months on others) My wife stays home and takes care of me, and has no insurance, How in the HELL am I going to pay ANYTHING to get her insured?

  • http://att.net Mark

    This is simple SCREW THE PEOPLE THAT CAN AFFORD IT LEAST PLAN. Screw anyone who has worked to live a healthy life style and choosing to live as long as the natural process works. As long as God sees fit to keep us alive and not rely on the physical medical money stealing process. Notice the UNIONS of Companies have been exempted for another year while the working poor are forced to be screwed by the government again. Maybe it is time for the real 99% to tell the government to stick it.

  • Reality

    By 2015 you won’t need Obamacare because the dollar will come to an end to usher in Bankruptcy USA.

  • Betsy Ross

    Roberts ought to be disbarred. This is another tax, the penalty. And I would like to know how you can penalize people for not buying a product, which is what health care is. Nixon’s HMO idea was suppose to lower costs. It didn’t, just complicated the health care system once again. And citizens in some states pay for those hospitals with their property taxes…so privatizing hospitals was a mistake to begin with since it is the Board and doctors who want a bigger share of the pie than Medicare and most insurance plans now afford, while they get research grants, and freebies up the wazoo to cover those costs. In Arizona, we pay taxes to cover the illegal immigrants – are the illegals going to have to pay? If not, then that is an unequal privilege and immunity given foreigners that Americans dont get. This is all a sham, and piece of work. And if the uninsured couldn’t afford insurance period, then they won’t under this plan either. Simply be denied health care, as most Medicare patients are right now in the refusals of doctors to take new Medicare patients. This is throwing the public to the wolves, without any meaningful regulation. Treason, pure and simple. On the Constitution, and moral obligations for those on the Hill to have to have the same options and type of coverage we do…the ones paying for theirs, including the IRS agents charged with “enforceing” this unconstitutional travesty.

    • Fashionistaky


      • P B

        That is just what ovomit wants is socialized medicine and the hell with Americans. He gets what he wants and we get screwed again by this muslim Islamic pig.

    • Luckado

      I couldn’t have said it better.

  • will

    take a hike on this one I don’t want it and don’t need it its another JOKE

  • chad

    yeah this is a load of crap the rich can still afford health care (not that its right to make them pay for it) the poor still get it for free, and the middle class still get screwed. i guess i will work less, not strive to succeed and just get crap for free until the country goes down. I guess thats what obama wants

  • Howard

    Whats the penalty for not having a job.

  • APissedOffAmerican

    If a TAX LAW can be imposed by the government, then a TAX LAW can be changed or eliminated. The idiots in Washington DON’T WANT TO STOP THIS. Obamacare is what the Republicans are banking on for THEIR RE-ELECTION.

    Our representatives can stop this now. But, they won’t. Just as the Congress exempted themselves, THEY don’t give a damn about the middle class tax payers. And, as anyone knows who pays taxes, there is NO WAY to escape paying the tax penalty.

    I firmly believe that Washington is hoping that millions of Americans DON’T buy the insurance. Those who don’t and get stuck with the TAX PENALTY will b paying billions to Washington. So, what’s the REAL motive behind THIS TAX. The middle class, who are trying to feed their children, keep a roof over their heads, and keep their jobs in this horrible economy, will not be able to afford maybe $800 a month for the worst coverage and will instead PAY THE PENALTY to subsidize the non-working class and those who don’t know what birth control is. You know, someone making $20,000 a year with 7 kids will get free medical insurance thanks to the hard working middle class who’s subsidies will be minuscule to nonexistent.


    • Rocco

      You’d better read Drudge some more. The Republicans are trying to stop this rotten Socialized medicine, which will k!ll full time jobs, force Americans to pay money they don’t have, and wreck this already miserable economy.

    • Bob

      You need to look at the facts before you spout off. The prices are posted and they are lower than what insurance companies were charging before the law. Why do you people believe the nonsense that the tea party (Koch Brothers) put out there. You are such sheep.

      • porgie tirebiter


        You need to read before you spout off. No, ‘the prices’ are not posted in most states. Most states are not set up to be able to tell people on 10/1 what the costs will be.
        And where they have been posted, most ARE HIGHER. And where they are not, the higher costs are hidden in MUCH higher deductibles and co-pays.
        Bob here is one of those low information voters that got us into this mess.

      • Uncle Dave

        You are almost right Bob ….. but severely wrong nonetheless. The facts are that in some cases insurance rates are lower than PROJECTED. That doesn’t mean the are less expensive. And in other cases, many other cases, insurance cost have risen so dramatically in the last two years, it looks as if the prices have come down, but in reality , the have come up since this tax bill was passed. My take on it is that BOB is part of the liberal herd and refuses to accept the truth.

  • P B

    I am on Medicare and my wife is only working part time, since she was forced out of her full time job because of this bullshit plan of this jackass. So because she is only working part time and not making much money to even pay the bills, how the hell do I afford to buy this pigs insurance or pay his illegal fines. I can’t pay my taxes now. What the hell do I do, except tell these lying pigs to lock me up because I don’t have the money to pay. I have a mortgage and household bills, and MY supplement insurance is going up again because of this pig. Where the hell does it all stop or doesn’t ever anymore. We have taxation again and without representation as before. We need another Boston Tea Party!!!!!!!

    • Maryann

      We already have the Boston Tea Party. It’s appropriately called “The Tea Party”. I see its destiny to be the next political party. Stay tuned.

    • Bob

      I’m not sure I understand. You have money to buy a supplement for yourself, but you don’t have money to insure your wife? The cost is about the same. You sound pretty selfish, but most republicans are.

      • porgie tirebiter

        You’re correct Bob. You don’t understand. You’re one of the low information voters that got us into this mess.

  • drb

    “Give me liberty or give me death” and I will start a fight to avoid death. Any agreement ?

  • http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk A Morris

    I’m English and we have the NHS here, which other than minor tax is free for all. I’ve been talking to my friend in America and I’ve been amazed at the bizarre state of affairs of the health service in the US – if you get run over you get charged for them saving your life? And it’s about $30k right off? I hope you’re all able to get a better system sorted for the country.

    • porgie tirebiter

      But our health care system is far, far better than yours. You have to wait for services and tests we can access more quickly. You have more limited access to certain kinds of treatments, and for some people certain kinds of treatments can be denied.
      You also have an extraordinarily high VAT on all purchases, AND your income tax is much higher on average. It is not a minor tax. You are either trying to mislead the readers, or you have been mislead by your leaders.

    • Uncle Dave

      A Morris – I don’t know what your “American friends” have been telling you, but they are wrong. But first, lets start with your “minor tax”. How minor is it? Who pays for the hospitals, doctors, labs, etc.? I am sure its not a “minor” expense. But not having lived in a capitalist free society, I can understand your ignorance to a free market society. For you to understand, I think you had better read up on the subject or take a course. Don’t rely on “friends” that are just as ignorant as you are to the subject at hand.

  • Rocco

    I hope you enjoy being forced to sign up for health insurance, even though you are already covered under a health plan or can walk into any hospital and receive treatment. You’d better start saving your money; you’ll need the thousands of dollars you’ll have to pay. And I hope you don’t like your doctor too much because he won’t be able to make a living; enjoy your new Pakistani doctor!

    • Eric Bonet

      If you already have insurance, you are exempt from signing up with the ACA. Read the law, instead of listening to Glenn Beck.

      • Mary Hayden

        Eric I have health ins. and it will end at the Dec. deadline. I will have to visit an office and sign up for a new policy. So yes everyone including insured will have to get new policies. Sorry to burst you conservitive hating bubble.

      • porgie tirebiter

        No, you are still required to COMPLY with the ACA. The IRS will review your tax return, in which you must document that you have satisfactory coverage. That you say you don’t have to sign up, when in fact you do have to comply, is a distinction without a difference. Stop watching so much Chris Matthews, and stop drinking the Barry Flavored Kool Aid.

  • http://Yahoo Robert

    The affordable care,Obama care seems to me ligit medical coverage.
    I interpret affordable care as just that. Thats one of the good
    benefits of the law. The law also covers prior illnesses etc. This law benefits all citizens and there is nothing negative implemented regarding establishing insurance for all individuals at an
    affordable cost. Americans and the republican party should be all for given this law support and ironing out any parts ineffective and
    update law as needed to make it more effective for US citizens.

    • Darryl Drake

      Wake up America, Tha ACA is all about killing jobs and transforming full time employment to part time employment. This is what this administration wants, more dependent people on the Government!!. Obama will not admit when he has been wrong, such as you can keep your doctor and you cann keep your present insurance. If you believe that, GOOD LUCK.

      • Michael Marcum

        Your right already lost my health care that I liked & Obama-care was sited as the reason by my employer congress and Obama should have to abide by the same rules as every one else if they like it so much.

    • Uncle Dave

      Wow have you been brain washed Robert. First of all, the insurance costs are and will be higher. What is your definition of “affordable” and how did you arrive at it? Second, why does any one HAVE to carry insurance to begin with? What if I prefer to pay out of pocket, or get my medical needs serviced at free clinics, or not seek medical services at all? Who are you (and your liberal government leeches)to tell me what I must buy? Third, much of the bill is still unknown and literally 10’s of thousands of pages of regulations have been written to envorce them. Before you fall into the liberal trap on this thing, I suggest you take the time to read the bill yourself. Then attempt to read the thousands of pages of regulations, then make a decision. End of story.

    • porgie tirebiter

      Robert. I don’t know where you are getting your information to draw your conclusions, but you need to do more research. The law does not benefit all citizens. A recent study by the CBO, which this administration often cites as non partisan and trustworthy, has shown that when Obamacare is fully implemented there will still be over 30 million people uninsured. Premiums and co-pays/deductibles are also going up. This is already happening and irrefutable. Companies are cutting back hours so they don’t have to pay. Small companies are holding off hiring so they don’t have to pay. You have to ask yourself why Obama has issued over 2000 exemptions to his law, including Congress, their staff, unions and his corporate buddies. You have to ask by Nevada, where Harry Reid is from, is one of only two states totally exempted from Obamacare. Doctors are going to be paid less, so many are getting out of practice, meaning access will be diminished. And yes, pre-existing conditions must be covered, BUT you and your doctor cannot choose what treatment you want, treatments for some conditions will be mandated. Chronic Lyme sufferers, for example, and SOL once the approved two week course of antibiotics is done. No more coverage, and they are still suffering.
      The only way to make this law more effective is to get rid of it. Sometimes it’s better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing.

    • http://isuckatgolf.net Ken

      Robert, do you know much about the law? It seems those that are for it either are unaffected by it or don’t know anything about it other than Obama tells them. The middle class gets hammered by this bill. It is paid for by middle class Americans that are already paying upwards of $10,000 per year for insurance and it’s going up. It requires all kinds of coverage that many Americans don’t want because it raises their premiums. Some states are seeing their insurance premiums triple! All you are listening to is the cost for lower income Americans or the poor. For the middle class it skyrockets…and the rich can afford to keep their own non-exchange policies so it doesn’t affect them at all.



  • Uncle Dave

    Of course the fines are low for the first two or three years. Don’t you understand? The more people that opt out to pay the fines, the less people will be buying insurance. The less people that buy insurance, the less insurance companies are needed. And the fewer customers for those insurance companies will mean that many of them will go out of business. The end result being, eventually the only place one would be able to buy insurance is through the government. There you have it …. Single Payer or Socialized Medicine. Obama wins.

  • Sheri

    My daughter, age 27, NEEDS the insurance. BUT, she has so many health problems and therefor is unemployed; she cannot afford the fine nor the insurance. A lot of young people are not young and healthy anymore like future generations.

    • Sheri

      I meant “past” not furture generations. LOL

  • tony

    Fuck this asshole president….we are in the shitter you lemmings….

  • Sara
  • chelios

    Obamacare won’t last very long. The next time a Republican becomes president and has enough influence, he will eliminate Obamacare, thus allowing the profiteering insurance companies to once again control the market and continue fleecing the public.