CBO estimates 4 million will pay penalty vs. premiums by 2016

Out of the 23 million Americans the Congressional Budget Office predicts will remain uninsured post-health reform, the office estimates that 4 million will pay penalties for violating the mandate in 2016.

Criticized as being too low to deter young, healthy individuals from foregoing insurance, the penalties will average just over $1,000 apiece in 2016 and yield the government $4 billion a year in fines from 2017 through 2019, reports the Associated Press.

Three-quarters of these fines will fall on the middle class--those with incomes below $59,000 for individuals and $120,000 for families of four--causing opponents of health reform to decry the penalties as a tax and violation of President Barack Obama's campaign pledge to not raise taxes for those making less than $250,000 per year.

Although individuals who would have to spend more than 8 percent of their income on health insurance will be exempt from the mandate, the CBO estimates that 9 percent of those subject to the fine will live under the poverty line of $11,800 in annual income for an individual and $24,000 for a family of four.

The penalties will be collected by the Internal Revenue Service through tax returns. However, the IRS will not have the authority to bring criminal charges or file liens against those who don't pay, reports the AP.

To learn more:
- read this Associated Press piece
- read this Reuters article, via the Washington Post
- check out this Wall Street Journal Health Blog post
- read this Washington Times piece