NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The fee for not having health insurance coverage in 2015 will increase to 2% of your annual household income or up to $975 per family, $325 per adult and $162.50 for each child under the age of 18 years, whichever is higher. That's twice as much as the maximum penalty in 2014, when the fee was 1% of your annual household income, or $95.00 per adult and $47.50 per child under the age of 18 years.
The maximum penalty per family in 2014 looks like a bargain now at $285, a hike of nearly 250%. The fee will continue to get stiffer in 2015 when it will cost families 2.5% of their annual household income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under age 18, the federal government's way of incentivizing uninsured Americans to get health care coverage.
Whether through the incentive to avoid the penalties or the need to get health care coverage to protect their personal finances and have access to doctors and hospitals, as of February 22, 2015, nearly 11.7 million consumers had signed up for health insurance coverage in the government’s marketplace, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than half (55%) paid monthly premiums of $100 or less after tax credits, totaling $1,200 a year or less for coverage.
Despite the relative affordability of health insurance and a requirement to pay a stiff penalty for not having coverage, many Americans eschew Obamacare. According to a new analysis by Avalere Health, many Americans are still opting to go without health insurance coverage.
Enrollment drops off as the level of income increases, despite the fact that many of these consumers still qualify for subsidies. Enrollment at exchanges using HealthCare.gov were at 76% of eligible individuals whose incomes were between 100% and 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL) but dropped to 30% of individuals whose FPL was between 201% and 250% and sunk down to 2% of individuals whose annual incomes were over 400% of the FPL.
“[L]ower income people get larger subsidies in the exchanges,” says Caroline Pearson, senior vice president of Avalere Health. “As such, these people always have a bigger incentive to enroll, since their premiums are cheaper and their benefits are richer. However, we were surprised to see how quickly participation declined with even modest increases in income.” That suggests that exchanges may need to do a better job of reaching out to middle income folks, Pearson says, and helping them understand what benefits are available to them.
The federal government is attempting to continue to draw people into the health insurance marketplace.
Although enrollment is closed for this year, those who owe a fee for not having coverage in 2014 may be able to enroll for 2015 if they or someone in the household didn't know until open enrollment had ended on February 15, 2015, that they are required by law to have health insurance. Ditto if they didn't understand how not having coverage would adversely affect them and their household.
Enrollment for this group ends April 30, 2015. Consumers who got married, had a baby or lost their health care coverage may also qualify.
—Written by S.Z. Berg for MainStreet