IRS finalizes penalty for ObamaCare mandate

Federal tax collectors have finalized a rule to penalize individuals who do not obtain health insurance under ObamaCare.

The regulation from the IRS formally codifies the fine charged to people without insurance under the healthcare law’s individual mandate.

Under the law, most Americans must either be covered by health insurance or pay a penalty.

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For the first year, the charge for not obtaining health insurance is $95 or 1 percent of household income. The penalty will increase, though, to $695 per person or 2.5 percent of household income in 2016 and then according to a cost-of-living formula for following years.

There are, however, a number of exemptions to the penalty.

For instance, Americans who qualify for Medicaid coverage but live in states that have not taken part in the law’s expanded Medicaid will not be charged. Neither will people who are temporarily uninsured while between jobs, those who are opposed to having insurance coverage for religious reasons or members of Indian tribes.

“Today’s rules ensure that millions more Americans will be able to get quality health care coverage at an affordable price, that provides health security for their families and bans discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions once and for all,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said in a statement sent to The Hill.

The IRS refers to the fine as a “shared responsibility payment."

The individual mandate has been a contentious component of the healthcare law and was at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case on the law.

Supporters have said it is necessary to ensure that the law is sustainable.

“You simply cannot guarantee everyone coverage – regardless of their health status – without also requiring that everyone participate,” said Mike Kreidler, the insurance commissioner for Washington state, in a statement distributed by the Treasury Department. “The individual mandate guarantees personal responsibility. Without it, there’s nothing to prevent people from only buying health insurance when they need it – which is similar to allowing people to buy homeowners insurance when their house is on fire.”

In July, the House voted to delay the mandate by one year.

That would bring it into line with a requirement that employers with 50 or more full-time workers offer health insurance or pay a penalty. That provision was originally set to take effect next year but was pushed back to 2015 by the Obama administration earlier this summer.

Individual Americans, supporters of a delay have said, deserve as much flexibility as businesses do.

The penalty goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

--- This story was updated with quotes at 1:06 p.m.