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How big is the penalty for not getting health insurance?

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo/ File

(Read caption) President Barack Obama hugs Edna Pemberton, who introduced him, before speaking with volunteers who helped people enroll through the HealthCare.gov site at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. Penalties for not signing up for health insurance vary but are likely higher than the assumed $95.

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Stories about the Affordable Care Act often tell readers that they’ll have to pay a $95 penalty if they don’t get adequate health insurance coverage. But, like a lot of other things I read about the health law, that’s not quite correct. The penalty (which the Supreme Court said is actually a tax) could be less or, more likely, a lot more. It’s a complicated story.

The basic penalty is $95 in 2014—if you’re unmarried with no dependents and your income is less than $19,500. If your income is higher, you’ll owe more: 1 percent of the amount by which your income exceeds the sum of a single person’s personal exemption and standard deduction in the federal income tax. That’s $10,000 in 2013. But be warned: Income equals adjusted gross income (AGI—that number on the last line on page 1 of your tax return) plus any tax-exempt interest and excluded income earned abroad. If you make $30,000, your penalty will be $200.

 
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