Ask the Editor: How do fines work if you don’t have health insurance?


While doing a deep dive into health care-related news this month, an important question was asked about how individuals might be penalized for not having health insurance.

This “individual mandate” requires one to pay a fine for each month he or she did not have “minimum
essential coverage,” according to Although some exemptions apply, most U.S. citizens are required to be covered by insurance or risk paying a fee when they file their annual federal tax return the next year.

The penalty fee could amount to as much as 2.5 percent of one’s household income or $695 per adult, whichever is more. The fee is only assessed for months in which the individual is not covered for health insurance. Those without insurance for one to two months may qualify for a “short gap” exemption that prevents any fines from being assessed.

The national health care debate could change this mandate, but for now it continues to be the law.

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Joe Lanane
Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.
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