About four million people "could be fined for failing to buy health insurance when the health overhaul law is fully in force in 2016, the Congressional Budget Office forecast on Thursday," Reuters reports, adding: "Most individuals must buy health insurance under the landmark legislation passed by Congress last month, or face fines that will be phased in."
The penalty would raise about $4 billion a year from 2017-2019, the CBO said. Starting in 2016, people without coverage could be fined $695 or up to 2.5 percent of their income for not having health insurance, but many of the 21 million likely to remain uninsured in that year will avoid the penalties. "Democrats called the numbers unsurprising and said that those paying penalties amounted to 1.5 percent of the population" (Dixon, 4/22).
Modern Healthcare: "According to the CBO, the lion's share of payers will come from households making more than 400% of the federal poverty level" (DoBias, 4/22).
The Associated Press: Many will be exempt because of low income, religious beliefs or because they are members of American Indian tribes. "The penalties will average a little more than $1,000 apiece in 2016," and most of them will be middle class, according to the CBO. "About 3 million of those required to pay fines in 2016 will have incomes below $59,000 for individuals and $120,000 for families of four, according to the CBO projections. The other 900,000 people who must pay the fine will have higher incomes."
"Republicans have criticized the requirement that Americans get coverage, even though the idea was originally proposed by the GOP in the 1990s. ... 'The individual mandate tax will fall hardest on Americans who can least afford to pay it,'" said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. (Ohlemacher, 4/22).
The Hill: Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday that President Obama has broken his pledge to shield the middle class from a tax increase. "'The mandate is a tax increase that hits middle-class America the hardest,' he said in prepared remarks. 'And these people make less than $250,000, which breaks the president's pledge to not raise taxes on individuals earning less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000 a year'" (Heflin, 4/22).
The Washington Times: "Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, said Republicans are exaggerating the extent of the penalty" and the White House also fought back on Republican criticisms: "'The new law will make health insurance affordable for everyone, and CBO's analysis confirms that the vast majority of uninsured Americans will find health care affordable and choose to participate,' said White House spokesman Nick Papas" (Lengell, 4/23).