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Being uninsured in America will cost you more

by RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
Associated Press, Dec 29, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The cost of being uninsured in America is going up significantly next year for millions of people.

It's the first year all taxpayers have to report to the Internal Revenue Service whether they had health insurance for the previous year, as required under President Barack Obama's law. Those who were uninsured face fines, unless they qualify for one of about 30 exemptions, most of which involve financial hardships.

Dayna Dayson of Phoenix estimates that she'll have to pay the tax man $290 when she files her federal return. Dayson, who's in her early 30s, works in marketing and doesn't have a lot left over each month after housing, transportation and other fixed costs. She'd like health insurance but she couldn't afford it in 2014, as required by the law.

"It's touted as this amazing thing, but right now, for me, it doesn't fit into my budget," she said.

Ryan Moon of Des Moines, Iowa, graduated from college in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in political science and is still hunting for a permanent job with benefits. He expects to pay a fine of $95. A supporter of the health care law, he feels conflicted about its insurance mandate and fines.

"I hate the idea that you have to pay a penalty, but at the same time, it helps other people," said Moon, who's in his early 20s. "It really helps society, but society has to be forced to help society."

Going without health insurance has always involved financial risks. You could have an accident and end up with thousands of dollars in medical bills. Now, you may also get fined. In a decision that allowed Obama's law to advance, the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the coverage requirement and its accompanying fines were a constitutionally valid exercise of Congress' authority to tax.

In 2015, all taxpayers have to report to the IRS on their health insurance status the previous year. Most will check a box. It's also when the IRS starts collecting fines from some uninsured people, and deciding if others qualify for exemptions.

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