Starting in 2014, most people will be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty if they don't. Coverage may include employer-provided insurance, coverage someone buys on their own, or Medicaid.
Several groups are exempt from the requirement to obtain coverage or pay the penalty, including: people who would have to pay more than 8% of their income for health insurance, people with incomes below the threshold required for filing taxes (in 2009, $9,350 for a single person and $26,000 for a married couple with two children), those who qualify for religious exemptions, undocumented immigrants, people who are incarcerated, and members of Indian tribes.
The penalty for people who forego insurance is the greatest of two amounts: a specified percentage of income or a specified dollar amount. The percentages of income are phased in over time at 1% in 2014, 2% in 2015, and 2.5% starting in 2016. The dollar amounts are also phased in at $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015, and $695 beginning in 2016 (with annual increases after that). The Congressional Budget Office projects that 3.9 million people will pay the penalty in 2016. The total penalty for the taxable year will not exceed the national average of the annual premiums of a bronze level health insurance plan offered through the health insurance Exchanges.
Health insurance plans will provide documents to people they insure that will be used to prove that they have the minimum coverage required by law.