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With campaign season in full tilt, Americans are being inundated with rhetoric regarding the various tax proposals touted by President Obama and Governor Romney.
Given that these discussions usually involve paeans to the middle class and promises to keep their tax rates low, one tax in partcular has received surprisingly little attention: the “penalty” levied on all Americans who do not buy health insurance.
As shown in the chart above, this new tax – defined as such by the Supreme Court, which ruled it constitutional under Congress’s taxing power – hammers not just the middle class, but roughly 600,000 Americans whose incomes fall below the federal poverty line, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office.
Heritage health care expert Alyene Senger explained the distribution of the tax in a recent Foundry post:
“Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report that determined that even more Americans than previously estimated will be hit with Obamacare’s ever-controversial individual mandate tax, totaling 6 million by 2016.
Of the 30 million Americans whom Obamacare leaves uninsured and without affordable insurance options, 6 million will have to pay the penalty, an increased estimate from 2010. According to CBO, “About two million more uninsured people are now projected to pay the penalty each year, and collections are now expected to be about $3 billion more per year.” The total cost to uninsured Americans will be around $7 billion in 2016 and is projected to be about $8 billion every year from 2017 to 2022.
The tax penalty is calculated in different ways depending on income levels. If they do not obtain Obamacare-mandated health insurance, households with lower incomes will pay a flat dollar amount each year, and those with higher incomes will pay a penalty equal to a percentage of their incomes.
Despite claims made by Obamacare’s advocates that the law will help middle- and low-income Americans, CBO’s table reveals that the distribution of the tax falls heavily on those making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)—meaning the majority of this new tax falls on the very people the law was supposed to help. For instance, a family of four making about $24,600 per year, the projected FPL in 2016, could be subject to this egregious tax penalty.
Regardless of whether or not these 6 million Americans want health coverage, they are going to pay a hefty tax and still won’t have it. Moreover, the individual mandate tax is only one of Obamacare’s 18 new or increased taxes and penalties that will cost Americans $836 billion over the next 10 years.”
The Heritage Foundation
October 8, 2012