Obamacare Penalty to Hit One Million Low-Income Americans

200,000 earning less than 100 percent of the poverty level to pay fine

Obamacare protesters / AP
June 9, 2014

Roughly one million low-income Americans will pay a fine under Obamacare, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

The CBO estimated that four million people would pay the individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance by 2016 as a result of the president’s health care law, according to a report released last week,

"All told, CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] JCT estimate that about four million people will pay a penalty because they are uninsured in 2016 (a figure that includes uninsured dependents who have the penalty paid on their behalf)," the report said. "An estimated $4 billion will be collected from those who are uninsured in 2016, and, on average, an estimated $5 billion will be collected per year over the 2017–2024 period."

A chart accompanying the report revealed that 200,000 of those paying the penalty earn less than 100 percent of the poverty line. An additional 800,000 are considered low-income, earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level.

President Barack Obama was once critical of an individual mandate precisely because of its effect on low-income Americans. During a primary debate against Hillary Clinton, then-candidate Obama criticized the idea of a mandate for imposing fines on people who could not afford health insurance.

"You can have a situation, which we are seeing right now in the state of Massachusetts, where people are being fined for not having purchased health care, but choose to accept the fine because they still can’t afford it even with the subsidies," he said. "They are then worse off, they then have no health care and are paying a fine above and beyond that." 

This year Americans opting to not purchase health insurance will pay a $95 fine or 1 percent of their household’s adjusted gross income—whichever amount is greater. By 2016, the minimum fine will be $695 or 2.5 percent of the household income.

In addition, the report estimated that under Obamacare 30 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2016.

"The central promise of the new health care law was that by bringing down the cost of insurance and making it more affordable, virtually all Americans would have good health insurance at reasonable rates," said Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, a nonprofit organization devoted to economic freedom for Hispanic Americans.

"Instead, 30 million Americans will be uninsured," he said. "And four million will pay tax penalties for not complying with the law.

"Moreover, this administration has hit a new low by penalizing 200,000 of America's most needy," Garza said.

The CBO report noted that many uninsured Americans would be exempt from the penalty in 2016. The government will exempt unauthorized immigrants, incarcerated individuals, members of Indian tribes, people with earnings so low they are not required to file an income tax return, and individuals whose premium exceeds 8 percent of their income.

Published under: Obamacare