Health care reform penalties could cost you and your family

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Health care reform was designed to help get Americans who can't afford medical care insured, but there are penalties in the plan and they could cost you and your family.

If you have health insurance through work, a plan you've purchased on your own or you're on Medicaid or Medicare, you're covered. You don't have to worry about getting hit with a penalty. But if you can afford insurance and you don't get it, the penalties on your tax bill will start adding up beginning next year.

One out of every three Houstonians under 65 years old is uninsured. Vivian Ho of Rice University's Baker Institute says health care reform is supposed to get those people help.

"Not everyone is going to be forced to purchase health insurance," Ho explained. "If you meet certain low income requirements, you will not be required to purchase health insurance."

You will not be penalized if your employer offers insurance, but it would cost you more than 8 percent of your income. Feds do not think that is affordable.

If you're single and make less than $9,750 or you're married with two children and you make less than $26,000, you also won't pay a penalty for not signing up.

If none of these things apply to you and you're caught with no insurance at the end of March 2014, you'll have to pay a $95 penalty or 1 percent of your income, whatever is higher. Every year after the penalty goes up. By 2016, it will be $695 or 2.5 percent of your income.

"There it can really start taking a bite and that's what it was meant to do," Ho said.

Many experts studying this issue believe a lot Texans will just pay the penalty, at least in 2014. You'll have to fork over the penalty when you file your federal income taxes.

Coming up Thursday, as we get closer to October 1st, the number of scams using health care reform as a hook are increasing. We'll show you what to look for so you don't get suckered.

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