Monday, January 19, 2015

Counting down the ObamaTax

As you've no doubt seen all over the news, once Open Enrollment v2.0 is over next month, folks who failed to take advantage of it and are still uninsured will (likely) be subject to a fine penalty tax. Many (most?) folks believe that the tax is a mere $95 this year and, for some people, this may well be the case. But it's actually just a minimum; the actual rate (this year) is 1% of income:

"TurboTax, an online tax service, estimated that the average penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 will be $301."

On the one hand, that's a lot more than $95, but on the other, it's likely less than one month's premium, especially for folks who don't qualify for a subsidy.

Just for grins and giggles, I took an average person (age 35) living in the Mid-West and ran some quotes. I chose Anthem because, let's face it, Blue Cross is ubiquitous and, in many markets, the 800 lb gorilla. My hypothetical client, of course, eschews tobacco.

The least expensive plan available cost $253, and includes a maximum potential out-of-pocket (MOOP) liability of an additional $6,400 if he has a bad year. But assuming that, like most folks, his expenses are generally a flu shot and maybe a generic prescription (available for $4 at many retailers), this doesn't seem like such a good deal. It would take less than two months to be "in the hole" vice "going naked."

Now let's back up a bit and consider his younger brother, aged 28: he's eligible for a "Catastrophic" Plan (not to be confused with an HSA-compliant one), which comes with a MOOP of $6,600, and costs $180 per month. Again, a couple of months into it, and he's well past the $301 fine penalty tax, too.

Bottom line: why would anyone think that this is an efficient incentive?
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