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Ending the penalty for not having health insurance may have less effect than projected

Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Health & Fitness

The penalty for not having health insurance -- the most controversial and unpopular part of the Affordable Care Act -- is dead.

But it may no longer matter.

"From a practical matter, it won't have much of an impact," said Marty Anderson, chief marketing officer for Security Health Plan, an affiliate of Marshfield Clinic.

The penalty was repealed as part of the tax reform and tax cut that was signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump. The change goes into effect in 2019.

The fine is a minimum of $695 for an adult or 2.5 percent of income, above the federal tax filing threshold of roughly $10,650 for one person.

It was considered too small by many policy analysts and was far less effective than projected.

 

"Certainly I would prefer to keep it in place," said Cathy Mahaffey, chief executive officer of Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative in Brookfield, Wis. "But I really do think the impact of repealing the penalty will be minimal."

The decision to buy health insurance has instead been influenced more by the cost, whether people receive federal subsidies and whether people value health insurance.

Having a value for health insurance -- more than the penalty -- has driven enrollment, said Coreen Dicus-Johnson, president and chief executive of Network Health.

More than 40 percent of Network Health's members, for instance, are 50 or older.

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