Some 6 million Americans could be hit with a tax penalty for not having health insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act.
The projection by the Congressional Budget Office is 50 percent higher than when it estimated two years ago the impact of the effects of the individual mandate in 2016. The penalty will be the greater of 2.5 percent of household income or $695 per person (about half for dependent children) with a cap for family payments.
The requirement that every American have insurance was one of the most controversial provisions of the national law and was the center of the challenge to the law in the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the penalty as it has been called was a legitimate use of Congresss power to tax, although the administration has insisted it is not a tax.
Most of those hit by the penalty, which will be enforced and collected by the Internal Revenue Service, will be middle-class Americans. The CBO said that about 80 percent of those subject to the penalty will make up to or less than five times the federal poverty level or about $56,000 for an individual or $115,500 for a family of four. Overall the penalty will raise about $7 billion in 2016, rising to about $8 billion a year over the next five years through 2022.
The CBO estimates that about 30 million Americans will be uninsured in 2016, but most of them will fall under one of several exempt categories.
The CBO hiked its estimate of those who will be penalized due to the higher unemployment rates, lower wages and salaries and another provision of the Supreme Court ruling that said states could not be forced to expand their Medicaid programs, which had been one avenue to expand health coverage. The administration says low-income people in states that do not participate in the Medicaid expansion will be exempt. At the same time, many states are balking at establishing the health exchanges under the law that would enable the uninsured to buy lower-cost insurance.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said that the individual responsibility policy will only affect those who can afford health care but choose not to buy it. But that should be their choice without fear of government interference.