2NEWS Problem Solvers: Affordable Care Act penalties, subsidies

TULSA - Every day at work, Julie McKenna knows she's one of the lucky ones. Her employer pays 100 percent of her health insurance premiums.

And as the office manager, Julie helps make sure the insurance plan her boss offers meets all the rules of the Affordable Care Act, so she and her co-workers won't have to pay a penalty.

"Come the first of the year," Julie tells us, "when it comes to medical, I'm covered and obliging by the rules."

Because those that don't follow the rules will be subject to that penalty.

Individuals and families that don't have qualifying coverage starting Jan. 1 face penalties of $95 per adult, and half that for each child -- up to a $485 cap per family.

That amount increases considerably in the the following years.

On the flip side, there are federal subsidies available for lower income families to help pay for coverage purchased through healthcare exchanges.

Says CPA Steve Milam: "The more modest your level of income, then the more significant of a discount you'll get on your premium, so that way your monthly premium payout will be reduced so you just have a lower premium payout to make."

If you qualify for a subsidy, experts say you have a choice of using it to either reduce your monthly premium payments, or to claim the entire credit later when you file your tax return.

It's estimated an average family using an exchange will get a yearly tax subsidy of about $2,700.

Milam says, "It can be fairly substantial and I think that's important for people to understand, there are ways to help them pay for these health care premiums."

As for those penalties, the IRS can withhold penalties from your refund, and add them to any tax due.

As of right now, though, the law doesn't give the IRS power to go after taxpayers who fail to pay the penalties.

But since the Affordable Care Act is continually changing, enforcement of those penalties -- and even the rules about subsidies -- could change, too.

Remember, those subsidies are only currently available for those buying insurance through the exchanges, not for those who get coverage through their employer.

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