You have until March 31 to buy health insurance. This is technically true: Open enrollment ends on March 31. So you can buy health insurance up until then. But you have to buy insurance well before that if you want to avoid paying the mandate’s penalty. Basically, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says that in order to avoid paying the fine for being uninsured, you have to be insured by the end of March. But insurance policies begin on the first day of the month, which means that you need to buy insurance by February. And because it takes a couple of weeks to process a policy, in practice, you need to purchase by Feb. 15. If you buy insurance after that, you will still be insured — but you will also need to pay a penalty. Which brings me to my second untrue “fact”:
The penalty for being uninsured next year is $95.Again, this is partly true. In fact, the penalty for being uninsured next year is $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher. So if you make $75,000 a year and you decide to go without insurance, the penalty will be $750. There are a number of things you can do to avoid having to pay it, from deliberately getting your utilities shut off to under-withholding taxes from your paycheck so that they don’t have a refund from which to take out the penalty. But that number is what will go on the books at the Internal Revenue Service, not the $95 you’ve probably heard.