Q: If I decide to gamble and go without insurance, isn’t that my business?
A: No, because if you wind up being the uninsured heart attack patient who arrives at the ER, the rest of us pay the bills for your care. Hospitals pass on the cost of “uncompensated care.”
Furthermore, if you then enroll in coverage during the next open enrollment period, you’ll begin reaping benefits from your insurance right away (paid for by healthy enrollees’ premiums) without having contributed to the insurance pool during times when you were healthy and not in need of care. Obviously, this is sometimes unavoidable (a person who is born with a pre-existing condition, for example, needs medical care from day one), but the only way the health insurance system can be sustainable is for healthy people to be in the risk pool, paying premiums to offset the cost of care for those who are sick.
In order to keep the insurance market stable and available to everyone, the Affordable Care Act includes an individual mandate and an associated penalty for those who ignore the mandate. Find out how much of an Obamacare penalty you might pay for ignoring the mandate.