Although a scrambling number of individuals looking to meet the March 31 open enrollment deadline has caused a flurry of last minute sign-ups, some individuals are opting to pay the penalty for being uninsured. While the penalty may seem affordable to some in 2014, one financial company predicts sign-up rates will be higher in 2015 and 2016 as penalties increase.

Also see: Obamacare enrollment heading to 7 million on deadline day

Those who go uninsured will incur tens, or even hundreds, of thousands in tax penalties over the course of their lifetimes, NerdWallet says. In fact, the group estimates individuals who remain uninsured throughout their lifetime will pay a minimum of $36,556 in penalties; and families of four a minimum of $109,668. 

For 2014, 2015, and 2016, the minimum penalty will be $95, $325, and $695 annually, respectively. After 2016, tax penalties will be calculated based on annual cost of living adjustments determined each year by the Social Security Act.

Even lower-income individuals and families could end up paying hundreds, even thousands, of dollars per year in penalty fees in coming years, according to Christina LaMontagne, NerdWallet’s vice president of health.

“This will create a significant financial burden for this population, increasing the incentive to instead purchase insurance,” she says. With a higher incentive to purchase insurance in coming years, we will likely see higher enrollment in health insurance plans, she adds.

“Regardless of whether or not the government’s enrollment goals are reached in 2014, the long-term outlook for uninsured rates is positive,” LaMontagne says. “Between elevated awareness about the importance of health insurance, the ironing out of marketplace kinks and an increasingly large disincentive to going uninsured, many Americans will seek out and obtain affordable health insurance — ultimately leading to decreased health costs and increased health awareness on a national level.”

Combined with the financial risk that has always existed with going uninsured, NerdWallet predicts the tax penalty will lead many more Americans to purchase insurance in coming years.

NerdWallet's study on lifetime ACA penalties can be found here:

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