By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 10/7/2009 9:52:00 AM ET 2009-10-07T13:52:00

Claim: Families making less than $250,000 would be taxed if they refused to enroll in a government-run plan.

One principal goal of the reform efforts in Congress is to make sure more Americans have insurance. In 2008, about 46 million Americans were uninsured, according to the Census Bureau. To address the uninsured problem, Congress is debating a requirement that people buy insurance, with a penalty imposed on those who choose not to. Debate has centered on how stiff the penalty should be and who would be exempt.

Fact or fiction?
Fiction. Two of the three Democratic bills in Congress would create a government-run public plan, but none of them would force anyone to enroll in such a plan. Enrollment at first would be relatively small, with about two million people to start, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Some Republicans contend that in the long run, a public plan would kill off private insurers and that only a public plan would remain. Under all the bills, a variety of options would be available to uninsured people: Medicaid, private-sector insurance, and — perhaps — a public plan. In the Senate Finance Committee bill, the tax on those who went uninsured would be $750 per adult. Exempt would be those whose incomes were below 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($29,326 for a family or four). Also exempt: people for whom the cost of the least expensive coverage available exceeds 8 percent of their income.

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