No public protests at tax time on PPACA's individual mandate, despite unpopularity

April 15 came and passed without much, if any, protest of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, despite the provision's unpopularity, according to Drew Altman in the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to expanding coverage to the uninsured, the individual mandate requires eligible individuals to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a fine. It was included as a central element of the PPACA to help create more viable insurance pools, even out insurance risk and stabilize premiums at reasonable prices. More than half — 65 percent — of the public dislikes the individual mandate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's December 2014 Heath Policy Tracking Poll.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Treasury Department estimated between 2 and 4 percent of taxpayers — representing 3 million to 6 million tax returns — would need to pay a penalty on their returns this tax season for not enrolling in coverage in 2014. The Treasury Department also estimated 4.5 million to 7.5 million taxpayers would need to reconcile subsidies they received for coverage at tax time, with half of those people required to make repayments due to underestimated incomes. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 45 percent would receive refunds for overestimating their income. About 20 percent of taxpayers, or 30 million, would be exempt from the individual mandate because their incomes are too low, or other reasons.

While many individuals face potential penalties or repayments, there has not been public backlash. According to the Wall Street Journal, this could be because media coverage combined with government and other organizations' outreach programs prepared the public for paying penalties or making repayments when tax season arrived.

Additionally, the initial penalty for not having coverage this year is relatively modest, coming in at $95 per adult or 1 percent of adjusted family income — whichever is greater. According to Kaiser, the average repayment cost was $800.

Despite the calm regarding penalties and repayments this year, the public may become more vocal in the years to come. The penalty for not obtaining insurance is on the track to increase to $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of adjusted income by 2016, according to the report.

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