Going without insurance could be costly

Under the new benevolent health care plan, are individuals' bank accounts and other assets subject to "confiscation" if an individual does not purchase health care?

— Donald Z., Medford

Confiscation is such a harsh word, Donald. How about if we just say those assets are subject to being shared with the federal government? And we bet you can guess which three-letter federal agency is good at sharing those assets. Correctamundo! It's the IRS.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which is rolling out this month, requires the vast majority of people to have health insurance and sets penalties for those who do not comply.

According to the IRS website related to Obamacare, "Starting in 2014, the Individual Shared Responsibility provision calls for each individual to either have minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for an exemption, or make a payment when filing his or her federal income tax return."

The minimum penalty for failing to have insurance is $95, but a lot of people would pay considerably more, since the penalty is $95 or 1 percent of a family income above the filing threshold, whichever is greater. That means a family with a total income of $50,000 would pay a penalty of about $300.

That penalty will increase greatly over the next two years, with the minimum fine running as much as $695 per person by 2016. The family maximum fine would be as much as $2,085 (or 2.5 percent of family income above the threshold, whichever is greater).

According to www.coveroregon.com, insurance costs through Oregon's program for a non-smoking, two-person family making $50,000 range from about $190 to $650 a month, after tax credits, and depending on the insurance company and things like the amount of the deductible.

People will be required to provide information regarding health insurance when they file their 2014 federal income taxes. For those who elect not to buy health coverage, the penalty probably will be assessed on their income tax form or withdrawn from their tax refunds.

Remember the personal insurance requirement does not apply if you are covered by your employer or if you are on Medicare, since that means you already have coverage.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.

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