26 June 2013
January 1st, 2014 marks the date we all must be a little more responsible... or pay the price. If you're a taxpayer in Los Angeles you already contribute $2 million a year to clean up one-time-use plastic bags, which pollute the ocean, strangle sea turtles, and repel the occasional LA precipitation for the homeless. But we won't have as much of a tax burden for picking up plastic next year, since the bags will be banned. Instead, we'll hand out 10 cent fees for paper bags or settle on reusable totes.
The other fee we can all look forward to beginning January 1st: a "shared responsibility payment" if we don't buy health insurance according to the individual mandate by the Affordable Care Act. This is colloquially known as the "Obamacare tax". So let me get this straight. By 2014 I’m required to have coverage for my health but banned to have coverage for homeless people in the rain, i.e. plastic bags? That is correct.
For those who don't buy health insurance, the penalty is a mere $96 on next year’s tax return. That escalates quickly to $325 if you don’t get coverage in 2015, and later $695 if you’re not insurance in 2016. Starting January 1st, 2014, large businesses that employ over 50 are required to offer affordable insurance or pay $2000 for each uninsured employee. Affordable insurance by Obamacare standards is a plan that costs the worker less than 9.5% of his or her annual wages and pays more than 60% of the cost of benefits. Businesses employing that employ less than 50 are exempt.
Similarly by January 1st, 2014, large retailers who gross $2 million a year must stop using one-time-use plastic bags or pay an undisclosed fine. Why aren’t their “shared responsibility payments” posted already? Smaller stores are ordered to ban plastic bags by July 1st of 2014. The alternative for consumers: pay 10 cents for a paper bag or buy a tote. That’s not as bad as a monthly insurance premium.
Luckily, Obamacare has got the middle to low income people covered. If your employer doesn’t offer insurance or your current plan isn’t deemed affordable, as defined earlier, you qualify for subsidized insurance plans. Subsidies are offered to qualified individuals and families whose income is 100% and 400% Federal Poverty level (for individuals: between $11,000 and $44,000; for families of 4: between $47,000 and $97,000).
These subsidies slash the cost of health insurance. For example: a family of 4 who makes $88,000 annually would pay $12,000 for an annual plan. Obamacare subsidies would provide $4000 in subsidies, lowering their monthly premium to $700.
You can calculate your subsidy amount if you enroll in an Exchange insurance plan. Only insurance plans offered by Covered California, the state "Exchange" created by Obamacare provide subsidies. Click the calculator to know your subsidy! Or click here to make plastic bags into grocery totes!