Planning to go without health insurance? Make sure you fully understand the penalties.

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By Consumers Union on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Lost in all the discussion about signing-up for Obamacare is mention of the true cost of not getting covered. If you don’t get coverage by March 31 and get sick later this year, you’ll be in a bind.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance on federal and state marketplaces is quickly nearing; and people are continuing to sign up for coverage, some 5 million thus far. Contrary to the constant misinformation about Obamacare, enrolling in a health plan is a far less risky proposition than going uninsured.

The next open enrollment period doesn’t start until November of this year and even then, coverage won’t begin until January 2015. By enrolling now, you can make sure you have the coverage you need.

Importantly, 4 out of 5 people who have enrolled in Obamacare so far have qualified for a discount on their coverage. That’s because the financial help available stretches all the way to $94,000 for a family of 4, as an example.

The only way to get coverage for 2014 after March 31 is if you experience a “qualifying life event”— for example, having a baby, moving states, or getting married.

If you choose not to get health coverage of any kind, remember that you may be required to pay a financial penalty. The penalty this year will be 1% of your yearly household income or $95 per person, whichever is higher. The penalty will increase in the coming years.

Of course there are certain hardship exemptions like for low income people whose state has refused to extend Medicaid coverage (see #12 on this list).

But for many people who take the risk, the real penalty could be getting sick and having to wait until 2015 for healthcare coverage. That could mean insurmountable debt or simply no access to needed healthcare treatments.

Before you take the risk of going uninsured, check out your options through our handy tool, HealthLawHelper.org; or use the embedded version below.

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