* CBO raises estimate by 50 percent
* Cites economic slowdown, state opposition to Medicaid
WASHINGTON, Sept 19 U.S. budget experts raised
their forecast on Wednesday of how many Americans will probably
have to pay a penalty in 2016 for not buying health insurance to
6 million from 4 million.
The 50 percent increase was likely to draw fire from
Republicans on the campaign trail who want to repeal President
Barack Obama's signature healthcare law and who reject the
penalty as a government intrusion into the lives of individuals.
But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said some of
the increase reflects state opposition to an expansion under the
healthcare law of the Medicaid program for the poor, which is
most unpopular in states with Republican governors or
CBO, which issued its last forecast in April 2010, also
attributed the larger number of people facing penalties to a
bleaker economic picture that will mean higher unemployment and
lower wages and salaries.
There are now 49 million people without health insurance in
the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Under the Affordable Care Act, better known to the public as
"Obamacare," more than 30 million people would become eligible
to buy subsidized private insurance or receive Medicaid coverage
The law requires most Americans to have some form of health
insurance - known as the individual mandate. The law stipulates
that those who do not acquire health coverage will face a
The penalty is scheduled to rise in 2016 to $695 or 2.5
percent of household income, whichever is greater. That year is
when the law's provisions are expected to operate fully.
The government is expected to collect between $7 billion and
$8 billion in revenue from the penalty, which the Supreme Court
ruled constitutional as a form of taxation earlier this year.
The CBO projects that 30 million people who are not elderly
will still be uninsured in the United States in 2016. But most
will not be subject to the penalty because they are illegal
immigrants, members of exempted groups including Indian tribes
or have very low incomes.