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Forget Obamacare: One in Four Americans Say They'll Pay the Fine

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) The law of the land now goes as follows: either have healthcare insurance or pay a fine. Yet more than one in four Americans say they would rather pony up the penalty. A new Gallup poll reveals that 28% of those surveyed have no intention of signing up for health insurance, as required by the Affordable Care Act and will pay the fine instead.

The penalty in 2014 for remaining uninsured is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or 1% of taxable income (up to $285 for a family), whichever is greater.

Fully 17% of U.S. adults currently do not have health insurance, according to Gallup. With the self-proclaimed holdouts who say they will refuse coverage, at least 5% of all U.S. adults will remain uninsured.

According to the nearly 4,000 interviews conducted with uninsured Americans since September, more than one quarter (26%) under the age of 30 say they are more likely to pay the fine, compared with 30% of those aged 30 and older.

The holdouts may be standing on political principles rather than being unable to afford coverage. Nearly half (45%) of uninsured Republicans plan to pay the fine, compared with 31% of independents and 15% of Democrats.

"For many uninsured Americans, particularly Republicans, the decision to pay the fine could be a form of protest against the law," Jeffrey M. Jones writes in an analysis for Gallup. "It is unclear whether that protest will extend only as far as their response to this survey question, or will extend to their actual behavior when the deadline to get insurance arrives."

Currently, 81% of uninsured Americans claim to be aware of the requirement to have insurance or pay a fine. Two thirds of those surveyed still say they are not familiar with the federal government health insurance exchanges.

Less than half (46%) of those who plan to get insurance say they will buy it through an exchange, while 36% say they will buy coverage elsewhere -- the remaining 17% are unsure.

"The fact that younger uninsured Americans are no more likely than older uninsured Americans to say they will pay the fine could be a positive sign for the law's ability to keep insurance affordable, assuming that the younger uninsured are no less healthy than the older uninsured," Jones says. "The biggest challenge to achieving universal coverage, however, may not be in making Americans aware of the requirement or in getting younger uninsured Americans to sign up. Rather, it may be getting those likely to oppose the law, namely Republicans, to overcome their ideological opposition to the law and sign up for insurance."

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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