When will it be illegal to have no health insurance?
Dear Legal Beagle,
Never. It will always be legal to go uninsured, but starting January 1, 2014, some people who go without health insurance will have to pay a tax penalty.
In order to be hit with the penalty, you must
- Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident (Undocumented immigrants and American Indians are exempt)
- Have income greater than the tax filing minimum ($9,750 for a one-person household)
- Pay no more than 8% of your income for the lowest cost plan
- Not be in jail
Even if you meet all of those criteria, you can still go three months “bare” and pay no penalty.
The penalty will cost less than health insurance for nearly everyone. So, avoiding the penalty is not a good enough reason to buy health insurance. The real reason is to get whatever medical care you need without having to sell your house, cash in your retirement accounts, etc. And you never know when you are going to need care – a young, healthy person can get injured or uncover a heart defect. In other words, no matter how healthy you feel today, you can turn into a thousands-of-dollars patient overnight.