Understanding the Affordable Care Act:
the Individual Mandate
In 2011, 16 percent of Americans, 49 million people, had no health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is intended to make health insurance available to more people. One of the changes from the Affordable Care Act is an "individual mandate" that requires most U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014, or pay a fine.
What Does the Individual Mandate Mean for Me?
If you already have health insurance coverage that meets the minimum requirements as of Jan. 1, 2014, such as your Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan through your employer, you don't need to make any change. The requirement is already satisfied.
Those who don't have coverage through an employer or a government program like Medicaid or Medicare or qualify for an exemption will have to purchase individual coverage.
In October 2013, new online shopping sites called exchanges (also called health insurance marketplaces) will open. They are designed to make comparing and buying health insurance easier and cheaper. For those who qualify, tax credits and financial assistance (or subsidies) to offset health insurance costs may be available.
Starting with the 2014 federal tax return, people will have to prove they have health insurance or pay a penalty. For 2014, the penalty is the higher of $95 or 1 percent of your income.