As Open Enrollment Deadline Looms, Uninsured Americans Face Obamacare Fine

| by Kathryn Schroeder
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Many uninsured Americans need to prepare themselves for the Obamacare fine to be applied to their tax return, according to a Kaiser Health Tracking poll released Jan. 28.

On Jan. 31, open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends, and many uninsured Americans are unaware of the deadline or that a fine will be assessed if they remain without coverage.

Only 15 percent of uninsured poll respondents knew when the deadline was occurring, with 57 percent completely unaware. Sixteen percent thought the deadline was some other time in 2016, while 12 percent thought it had already passed.

Only 1 percent of respondents could correctly name the 2016 fine amount of $695 per person or 2.5 percent of household income that will be applied to an uninsured on their tax return.

While the uninsured may not know how much the fine is, 47 percent knew of its existence and are aware they will have to pay it for not having health insurance.

The same amount, 47 percent, do not think they will be required to pay the fine, while 6 percent of uninsured respondents do not know if the fine will apply to them. It is possible to be exempt from the fine under hardship exemptions.

Some of the uninsured have taken steps to see if they qualify for Medicaid or financial assistance to obtain health insurance, but more than 72 percent have not made any attempt to review their options.

Sixty-seven percent claim they have not been contacted about signing up for coverage. Fifty-seven percent have not tried to get more information on their own.

Regardless of whether the uninsured have taken steps to get coverage or not, 61 percent say they have enough information about ACA to know how it will impact them, and 65 percent do plan to get coverage within the next few months, even though 46 percent have not been covered in two years or more.

If an individual misses the open enrollment deadline they still have options to obtain health insurance, according to Obamacare Facts. These options include qualifying for a special enrollment period, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and short term health insurance.

Some of these options, like a short term health insurance plan, will not help avoid the fine for not being insured under a ACA-approved plan.

The recent efforts of Republican lawmakers to repeal the ACA have not gone unnoticed by the uninsured who participated in the Kaiser Health Tracking poll. Fifty-six percent believe lawmakers are taking such steps to gain political advantage, versus the 35 percent who believe politicians are trying to repeal it because they believe it is bad for the country.

The poll found that overall, 44 percent of the public have an unfavorable view of the ACA, with 41 percent viewing it favorably.

Sources: The Henry J. Kaiser Family FoundationObamacare Facts / Photo Source: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr, LaDawna Howard/Flickr

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