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No Obamacare Break This Year, Government Warns

People who don't have health insurance yet for next year need to hurry up and get it or risk a fine, the federal government warns. And the fine's going up this year.

Although the Health and Human Services Department offered a special extension last year to sign up, because many people may not yet have fully understood the requirements, there will be no such break this coming year.

"It's important to remember that the final deadline to sign up for 2016 coverage through HealthCare.gov is January 31," said Kevin Counihan, the CEO of Healthcare.gov.

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"A Special Enrollment Period around the April 15 tax filing deadline will not be offered this year. If you don't enroll by then, you could have to wait another year to get coverage and may have to pay the fee when you file your 2016 income taxes."

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, requires virtually everyone to have health insurance. It also requires insurance companies to cover more people than they used to, and it provides federally subsidized insurance on the health insurance exchanges offered in each state.

As an extra incentive, people who don't sign up will have to pay a tax, or fee.

Last year, the tax was $325 per person or 2 percent of annual household income - whichever is higher. "For 2016, the fee you'll have to pay if you choose to go without health insurance will increase to $695 or 2.5 percent of your income - whichever is higher," Counihan said.

"When you file your federal income taxes, if you are uninsured for more than three months despite having access to affordable coverage, you'll be required to pay whichever amount is higher."

The HealthCare.gov website has a calculator online to help people estimate the fee.

People with very low incomes can ask for an exemption and may not have to pay.

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"Every month without coverage counts," Counihan added.

Most Americans get their coverage through an employer. Many others are covered through Medicare, Medicaid or other government programs. The exchanges offer private health insurance and what's available and how much it costs varies from county to county.