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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 16-22

This week, readers sent us letters about penalties in the federal health care law and the new look of our website.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


Penalties for Not Purchasing Health Insurance

In your article on [“False Assumptions on the Health Care Law,” July 11], you write:

The risk factors also warned that “[f]ailing to purchase insurance will result in a tax penalty of $695.” True, when the law is fully implemented in 2016. But the AFP site only tells half the story. It doesn’t ask whether individuals already have insurance or not, and it says nothing about opportunities for federal subsidies to help the uninsured buy coverage or expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

You failed to point out that the penalty is the LARGER of $695 or 2.5% of [adjusted gross income]. So, for example, an individual with a $50,000 income will face a penalty of $1,250 (and won’t be eligible for any subsidy either). And you failed to point out that for a family, it is $695 for each adult plus $348 for each child,  or 2.5% of AGI, whichever is larger.

Please strive to be credible.

James Larson
Golden Valley, Minn.

FactCheck.org responds: The letter writer has a point that there is more to be said about how these penalties will be calculated, and we did provide a link to a previous story that contained this information. The writer is correct to say that the penalty will be the larger of $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016, but it will be 2.5 percent of income above the threshold for filing taxes. For a single person in 2012, that tax-filing threshold was $9,750. So someone earning $50,000 would pay a penalty of about $1,006. The penalty for dependent children is $347.50 (half the adult rate) in 2016, and the total minimum family penalty is capped at triple the per-person rate. The penalty also can’t be more than the national average premium for the lowest-cost plans sold through insurance exchanges.


Unnecessary Facelift

I don’t care much for the new appearance of your website [“FactCheck.org Facelift,” July 16]. First, there was nothing much wrong with it as it was. Secondly, the new and much larger font used makes it necessary to scroll down to see anything below the first article. Third, every time the (unnecessary) moving banner with lead articles scrolls left, all of the articles below it jump up or down two or three lines.

Art Brooks
Albuquerque, N.M.