Financial

Millions choose IRS fines as more affordable than health coverage

By Abby Goodnough

Clint Murphy let the deadline for getting health insurance by the new year pass without a second thought.

Murphy, an engineer in Sulphur Springs, Texas, estimates that under the Affordable Care Act, he will face a fine of $1,800 for going uninsured in 2016. But in his view, that penalty is worth it if he can avoid buying an insurance policy that costs $2,900 or more. All he has to do is stay healthy.

“I don’t see the logic behind that, and I’m just not going to do it,” said Murphy, 45, who became uninsured in April after leaving a job with health benefits to pursue contract work. “The fine is still going to be cheaper.”

Two years after the Affordable Care Act began requiring most Americans to have health insurance, 10.5 million who are eligible to buy coverage through the law’s new insurance exchanges were still uninsured in the fall, according to the Obama administration.

That number appears to be shrinking. Administration officials said last month that about 2.5 million new customers had bought insurance through HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange serving 38 states, since open enrollment began on Nov. 1.

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