Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (2)
By Brad Tuttle
January 29, 2016

First off, if you’re among the clueless, we’ve got answers! The deadline for Obamacare enrollment is Jan. 31, 2016. That’s this Sunday. If you don’t sign up for health insurance by then, you may face a fine, and/or you might not be able to enroll in a health insurance plan for all of 2016.

As for the size of the fine for going without insurance, an uninsured individual will be on the hook for $695 or 2.5% of household income come tax time, whichever is greater. Because there are additional taxes if children are uninsured, a previous study estimates that the average cost for an uninsured household will be $969 in 2016.

This information will come as a surprise to many uninsured Americans, however. According to a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released this week, based on surveys conducted earlier in January, only 15% of the uninsured knew that the 2016 signup deadline is the last day of this month. Nearly half of the uninsured in the survey (47%) were aware that they would face a fine for not enrolling, but only 1% could correctly name the fine amounts for 2016 ($695 or 2.5% of income).

Another 47% of the uninsured said they didn’t think they would take a financial hit because of their failure to sign up for health insurance. This may or may not be true. “Some uninsured may in fact be exempt from the fine because of hardship exemptions available under the law,” the Kaiser report states. Then again, if your income is so low that you’d be exempt from the fine, then you’re all but guaranteed to qualify for a discount on health insurance premiums, or perhaps even get coverage for free.

Read next: Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare Open Enrollment 2016

So far, 83% of those who have enrolled for coverage at the federal insurance marketplace have qualified for some kind of discount, with the average subsidized premium costing $113 per month as a result. Apparently, though, the problem is that many uninsured remain “disengaged” in the enrollment process, according to Kaiser. Most have not bothered to find out if they’re eligible for discounts.

“Over 7 in 10 say they have not tried to figure out if they qualify for Medicaid (72 percent) or for financial assistance to purchase health insurance (79 percent) in the past 6 months,” the Kaiser report states. “Most of the uninsured are disengaged from the ongoing enrollment process.”


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