The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but better known as simply Obamacare, is a collection of new taxes masquerading as a healthcare law.
Obamacare institutes new taxes on indoor tanning services, drug companies, medical device manufacturers, comprehensive health insurance plans, and health insurers. It increases the employee share of the Medicare tax (currently 1.45 percent) to 2.35 percent on that portion of income that is more than $200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. It also adds a new 3.8 percent Medicare tax on investment income that will apply to the lesser of one’s net investment income or the amount of adjusted gross income in excess of applicable thresholds.
Obamacare also contains many “reforms” to the health care and health insurance industries. It expands Medicare, changes the Medicare payment system, creates a federal health insurance “marketplace,” authorizes state health insurance exchanges, offers federal subsidies for the purchase of health insurance, and requires that insurance companies must provide policies with minimum standards, cover all applicants without regard to pre-existing medical conditions, eliminate annual and lifetime caps on benefits, eliminate co-payments and deductibles for selected health-insurance benefits, and allow children to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until their 26th birthday.
The most egregious part of Obamacare is the individual mandate that every American not covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or health insurance must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty known as an “individual shared responsibility fee.” For 2014 the penalty is the greater of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to a maximum of $285 per family) or 1 percent of taxable income. For 2015 it is the greater of $325 per adult and $162.50 per child (up to a maximum of $975 per family) or 2 percent of taxable income. For 2016 it is the greater of $695 per adult and $347.50 per child (up to a maximum of $2,085 per family) or 2.5 percent of taxable income.
In the Supreme Court case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), Chief Justice John Roberts and the majority of the Court ruled that the individual mandate to buy health insurance was a constitutional exercise of Congress’s taxing power.
The deadline for enrolling in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace was supposed to be today, March 31. But as reported by the Washington Post: “The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.” The extra time “will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.” However, “an exact time frame for this extension has not been set, and it will depend in part on how many people request it.” Beginning “about mid-April, people will no longer be able to get extensions through HealthCare.gov.” Further, but much more narrow, extensions will then only be available “through one of the federally sponsored call centers nationwide.” Yet, “once the narrower rules take effect, people will still be trusted to tell the truth about why they need more time — a method known as ‘self-attestation.’”
But the deadline for enrollment is not the only thing that has been extended. A “hardship exemption” has also been extended, through October of 2016. Hardship exemptions have been included in Obamacare since the very beginning. Although generally only available to those who experienced divorce, eviction, or other “life-altering” hardships, two of the hardship categories—homelessness and domestic violence—don’t require any documentation. In December of last year, the hardship exemption for individuals whose health insurance policies had been canceled was extended through 2014. That date has now been extended through October of 2016. Additionally, health insurance plans that don’t comply with Obamacare regulations can remain in force for another two years as well. In fact, noncompliant plans can remain in effect through 2017—after the next presidential election—for policyholders who renew by October 1, 2016.
Aside from purchasing health insurance, there are number of ways to get a hardship exception and avoid the Obamacare penalty when you do your 2014 taxes next year. According to government’s “Application for Exemption from the Shared Responsibility Payment for Individuals who Experience Hardships,” you can request a hardship exemption if:
- You were homeless.
- You were evicted in the past 6 months or were facing eviction or foreclosure.
- You received a shut-off notice from a utility
- You recently experienced domestic violence.
- You recently experienced the death of a close family member.
- You experienced a fire, flood, or other natural human-caused disaster that caused substantial damage to your property.
- You filed for bankruptcy in the last 6 months.
- You had medical expenses you couldn’t pay in the last 24 months.
- You experienced unexpected increases in necessary expenses due to caring for an ill, disabled, or aging family member.
- You expect to claim a child as a tax dependent who’s been denied coverage in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and another person is required by court order to give medical support to the child.
- As a result of an eligibility appeals decision, you’re eligible either for: 1) enrollment in a qualified health plan (QHP) through the Marketplace, 2) lower costs on your monthly premiums, or 3) cost-sharing reductions for a time period when you weren’t enrolled in a QHP through the Marketplace.
- You were determined ineligible for Medicaid because your state didn’t expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
- You received a notice saying that your current health insurance plan is being cancelled, and you consider the other plans available unaffordable.
- You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.
The last category merely says to “please submit documentation if possible.” After sending in their signed application, applicants, if approved, will receive an “Exemption Certificate Number” to put on their federal income tax return.
The Fiscal Times reports that “one third of uninsured Americans are going to remain without coverage and opt to pay the penalty.” Don’t be one of them.