Is There a Penalty If I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
The second in a series of Q&As on open enrollment
Q: Am I still required to buy health insurance? And will I be penalized if I don’t?
A. Yes, and yes. Everyone is still required to have health insurance that meets the minimum coverage standards set by the Affordable Care Act. That means a plan that includes a comprehensive set of benefits and covers at least 60 percent of your medical costs.
If you don’t have insurance, you’ll pay a hefty fine unless you qualify for an exemption (more on exemptions here).
It’s not surprising that many people are confused about the status of the law and the penalty. Republicans in Congress made repeated attempts to repeal and replace the ACA, and President Donald Trump has loosened several provisions through executive orders. And over the months the ACA was being debated, the IRS issued conflicting statements about whether or not it would enforce the penalty for people who did not have health insurance.
But for the time being, anyway, the ACA is the law of the land, and earlier this month the IRS issued its latest decree: It said it would reject electronically filed tax returns of individuals who did not check the box indicating that they and everyone on their return is covered—unless they qualify for an exemption.
If you owe the penalty and don’t pay it when you file your return, you will lose any refunds you’re due for the current or future tax years. The IRS also said nonpayment could also hold up the processing of paper returns and delay refunds.
The purpose of the fine is to encourage people, especially those who are younger and healthier, to buy insurance. The idea is that creating an overall healthier, and less costly pool of people to insure, premiums would come down overall.