Busting a Health Care Reform Myth: Penalties Can’t Be Recouped With a Lien on Your House

A false Facebook post is making the rounds claiming that if you don’t pay the penalty for not buying health insurance, the IRS can file a lien against your home.

The health care reform law requires individuals who don’t meet one of the law’s exemptions to buy an insurance plan that meets minimum requirements or face a penalty. The law set up online state insurance exchanges to simplify cost comparisons among plans and to make purchasing a plan easy. Open enrollment for these insurance plans on the online exchanges began Oct. 1 and runs through March 2014. We’ve outlined all your options in a separate blog post.

Those who choose to have no insurance at all by the open-enrollment deadline will be penalized $95 or 1 percent of their income (whichever is greater). That penalty will go up to $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016.

However, it is not true that the IRS can file a lien against your home for failing to pay the penalty.

Though the IRS does have authority to garnish wages and file liens to collect unpaid taxes, the Affordable Care Act explicitly prohibits it from using such measures to collect health-insurance penalties, according to Kaiser Health News, an independent nonprofit news organization dedicated to covering U.S. health policy.

Instead, the IRS will withhold the penalty from your tax return, Kaiser Health News reports. Read the KHN piece here.

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

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  1. Daniel Bates

    …at least not until Obama issues another executive order to go around the law and do whatever he wants to do.

  2. Since the Supreme Court determined that the ‘fines’ in the health care legislation are in fact ‘taxes’…that was the rational to uphold the mandate that we must have health care…how long this remain valid? They’ve changed so many things about this law to suit the moment….I have little confidence.

  3. Am totally confused about this health care plan and what the impact is on the Real Estate Industry. Hope to figure this out before it comes slamming into my world.

  4. ron wortham

    I just got my aca compliant quote. They canceled my policy. 120% increase! $16000. A/yr for my wife and I! Silver plan Not affordable! This is a disaster for Realtors! !

  5. This law is ridiculous as we get paid gross income and the health reform act goes on the gross. We get caught in the middle. I make a far larger amount of money gross then net if we went on a Realtors Net we would all be on state aid of some sort and would be handed health care for free. My insurance is 700.00 a month. Because I am being qualified on my gross income not net. Ridiculous.

  6. Graham Wood

    For anyone wanting to see the actual text of the law as it pertains to liens on homes, here it is: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ148/html/PLAW-111publ148.htm

  7. Bill Woodcock

    This penalty/tax discussion on the part of our government is yet another diversion from the real issue, FAILURE. Our leaders want single payer, socialized healthcare all these diversions are simply meant to create such dissatisfaction that the populus demands a fix and voila government healthcare.

  8. I believe it is based on net income not gross for self employed add Realtors are.

  9. It’s no surprise that rumors like can get started. With a law that is so complex and convoluted in the way it’s written there are bound to be rumors and problems in spades. I guess we’ll see how things play out with it.

  10. Leslie Howard-Redweik

    I checked on the .gov website. Should my husband’s company decide to no longer offer insurance, our price will INCREASE $10,000. I am disgusted to say the least.

    I have numerous friends, who have been informed their premiums are increasing from 50-60 PERCENT. Huge amounts… Many have no idea what they are going to do… they cannot afford it.

    I’ve considered moving out of our state under possible circumstances. This is the first time I’ve had to consider the possibility of moving out of the country, should it come to that.

    I’d also like to mention this will include destruction of families who fail under the financial pressure and too much time not spent together and parents who have to be out of the home evern more and cannot keep an eye on their children or be there for them personally. Did anyone consider that either?

    This is probably the worst legislation EVER created for… against… the American people.

  11. Did you ever really think that this Health Care Act was good for anyone who actually works and provides for themselves? I have yet to meet someone who voted for Obama. Whoever voted for him sure got duped? Now we will pay for those who won’t work. They have no incentive. The Government programs reward those on the dole.

  12. There is no way to believe that just because the law says it can’t be done that it won’t. Your comment The law set up online state insurance exchanges to simplify cost comparisons among plans and to make purchasing a plan easy. has proven to be a lie just like the “You’ll get to keep your plan” I can’t believe organizations like yours and AARP are for this when it hurts just about every homeowner I know with higher costs and items in the plans they don’t even need. This administration does whatever they want to do lawful or un. Start standing up for individuals. We don’t need Big Brother to tell us what to think or do about our personal lives.

  13. Graham Wood

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for your comment. Just to clarify, this article is not an endorsement by NAR or any other organization of the Affordable Care Act. It’s just to highlight a specific issue that has been raised about the law.

  14. John Baker

    Hold on to your outrage just one year and vote accordingly next November!

  15. Rick GC

    Doesn’t matter what the law says, it is the IRS we are talking about and they can do pretty darn near anything they want. Especially under this regime.