By Thalia Louis
Whether they adopt Obamacare or not, uninsured Americans will face costs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to offer affordable coverage to low-income households, but penalizes those who cannot or don’t want to participate.
Today is the deadline for applying, and millions will wrestle with whether or not they will sign up.
Those opting out of health insurance must pay a $95 fee per adult, $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of the total household income, whichever is higher, according to healthcare.gov. The fee will appear on tax returns next year, when the penalty rises. Those who still do not have insurance by 2015 will face fees of $325 per adult, $162.50 per child or 2 percent of the household income, which will then appear on 2016 tax returns.
Natalie Gonzalez, a resident of Santa Ana and mother of two young children, works part-time as a server. Her husband Brandon is a full-time mechanic. Collectively, they have a net annual income of about $43,000.
Neither have health insurance, and are paying the penalty fee rather than the $70 per month plan they qualify for.
“As much as I want coverage for my family, $70 can go a long way. That’s groceries for a week or gas for both of our cars. Every dollar matters,” Natalie said.
But for others, the plans have benefits beyond employer-provided programs. Misael Ramirez, 27, is a part-time employee and makes about $25,000 a year. After having his insurance discontinued, Ramirez signed up for Obamacare and now pays an even lower amount of $86 with government subsidies.
“A lot of my hours got cut at work so I didn’t qualify for the company’s health insurance [anymore].” Ramirez said. “I qualified for the government subsidy, and now I’m paying less than what my job was charging me.”
Obamacare advocates a more reasonable approach for healthcare but is not a perfect system because there are winners and losers in all policy reforms. Opponents argue about increases to their current insurance plans, failing to see the benefits that Americans of all economic classes will receive.