With all the media attention to the law’s requirement that everyone have health insurance, you would think the consequences for not complying would be dire. In fact, they are relatively mild. Under no circumstances will anyone go to jail or face criminal charges of any sort. The penalty is an assessment paid with the following year’s tax return. For 2014, it will be the greater of $95 for an uninsured individual or 1% of taxable income. For 2015, those numbers rise to $325 and 2%. And for 2016, they rise to $695 and 2.5%. After that, they will rise each year with the cost of living. The minimum assessments for families will be three times those dollar figures. Exemptions will be available for financial hardship and religious objections. If you choose to go uninsured and pay the penalty, you will have fully complied with the law, so there will be no further consequences (unless, of course, you get sick or injured, in which case you won’t have insurance to pay the bills).
Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. is a professor of law at the Earle Mack School of Law and professor of health management and policy at the School of Public Health at Drexel University. He also writes for The Field Clinic blog.