Still no health insurance? Tax penalties for 2016 going up

The tax penalty is designed to encourage people to sign up for health insurance.
The tax penalty is designed to encourage people to sign up for health insurance.

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

The third open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act will draw to a close at the end of this month and California officials are warning those who go without health insurance in 2016 that they may face some hefty fines come tax time.

Under the Affordable Care Act, most Americans must either have health insurance or pay a penalty.  This year, that penalty climbs to $695 for an uninsured adult and $347.50 for an uninsured child under age 18 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

An uninsured family of four that doesn't qualify for an exemption from the coverage requirement under the federal health law faces a 2016 tax penalty of between $2,085 and $9,936, according to Covered California, the state's insurance marketplace. 

And advocates of health insurance urge consumers to remember that going without insurance also exposes uninsured people to potentially huge medical bills. Covered California has published information about what uninsured Californians may be billed for treatment of some common injuries.  Among the examples they provide is the $20,000 to $50,000 cost of repairing a torn knee ligament.

State officials say there are more than 750,000 now-uninsured Californians who make enough income that they must get insurance. Most of them are eligible for subsidies to offset the cost of their plans.

Many of the uninsured don’t qualify for coverage because they’re in the U.S. illegally. 

Open enrollment ends on January 31st. After that, the only way to buy insurance before the next open enrollment period in the fall is by qualifying for special enrollment, which is open to those who experience certain life events, including marriage, divorce or job loss. 

The deadline to sign up for health coverage that starts on Feb. 1 was Jan. 15.  For those who sign up between Jan. 16 and Jan. 31, coverage starts on March 1.  

Those who have insurance for only part of the year will face a prorated penalty.  

This story was updated on Jan. 24, 2016.