Minimum insurance coverage for 4 policy types

Health insurance: Why roll the dice?
Some gifts may not be welcome © Tyler Olson/

Like auto insurance, minimal health insurance will be required for most of us beginning next year under President Barack Obama's landmark health care reform law.

If you can afford health coverage, choosing not to buy it will add $95 to your 2014 federal income tax.  

The upside? You'll save a couple thousand dollars on health insurance.

The downside, besides blowing 95 bucks? "If you get sick or have an injury, you'll be subject to significant financial losses because you don't have coverage," says John McDonough, director of the Center for Public Health Leadership at Harvard University.

If you think you can waltz into an emergency room and be treated for free, think again. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 requires hospital ERs to treat you, but they don't have to do it for free.

"They will send you a bill, and if they believe you have the financial resources to pay that bill, they will go after you," says McDonough.

Best options: Compare health insurance costs to find the plan best for you. Put that $95 toward a lower-tier "bronze"-level health plan through the new state marketplaces, where your income may qualify you for a federal subsidy. Another option: Consider a cheaper, high-deductible "catastrophic" plan.


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