Why so many Mainers are paying the ACA penalty for lacking health insurance

Maine has one of the highest rates of health insurance in the nation, with only about 7 percent of the population lacking coverage. But at the same time, many Mainers have paid the federal tax penalty, established under the “individual mandate” provision of the Affordable Care Act, for having no insurance.

According to IRS data, more than 34,000 Maine tax filers paid nearly $15.5 million in the ACA tax penalty in 2015, the most recent year for which the data are available. That’s about 5.25 percent of all tax filers in the state that year, a high share compared to other states.

Nationwide, 4.5 percent of all tax filers paid the penalty in 2015, according to a recent report in the New York Times.

Most states with large percentages of residents paying the ACA penalty, such as Texas, Alaska and Florida, also have high percentages of uninsured residents, which stands to reason.

But Maine, where comparatively few lack insurance, is an outlier.

Is it a misunderstanding about the requirements of the law? A failure of marketing? A political statement? Or plain old Yankee cussedness?

Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said it could be any or all of the above. But, she cautioned, 2015 was the first full year of ACA-generated data. American consumers, insurers and tax experts were just coming to terms with the program and its complexities, including the penalty for not having health coverage.\

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Why so many Mainers are paying the ACA penalty for lacking health insurance,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Meg Haskell, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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