Young consumers balk at fine for avoiding health insurance

As the Obama administration and outreach organizations drive home the point about increasing fines for remaining uninsured, that strategy is putting added pressure on many young, healthy individuals who believe they are unable to afford health insurance, according to the Associated Press.

Groups such as Enroll America are emphasizing the fine in this year's open enrollment push. "We're working hard to make sure consumers understand that it's their last chance, there is financial help available, and if they don't get covered, they not only run the risk of running up high medical bills, but may also face a fine of at least $695," Enroll America President Anne Filipic said in a statement Tuesday.

Echoing this sentiment, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said during a recent speech that a considerable amount of the agency's marketing resources is going toward educating consumers about the tax penalty, the AP reports.

The fine for not choosing a comprehensive health plan will more than double this year to $695 per person or 2.5 percent of household income, which the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates will average out to $969 per household. For the almost 11 million uninsured who are eligible for Affordable Care Act plans, paying the penalty would still be cheaper than the least-expensive insurance option, that analysis found.

Such is the case for some young adults interviewed by the AP, many of whom plan to hedge their bets by paying the fine rather than insurance premiums. Others say they think the fine is unfair to lower-income individuals.

"Do you really think people who can't afford healthcare should have to pay a penalty?" asked Julian Rostain, a cook from the Philadelphia suburbs who is in his 20s.

CMS has said enrollees this year are trending younger, a seemingly good sign for the government; it has identified this demographic as a key enrollment target. Perhaps reflecting the difficulty of reaching the remaining uninsured, however, the Congressional Budget Office recently lowered its estimate for ACA exchange enrollment in 2016.

To learn more:
- read the AP article
- here's the Enroll America statement