U.S. Citizens Abroad Avoid Health-Law Mandate

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a tax penalty–and there’s a reason we say “most” rather than “all.”

Americans who live abroad at least 330 days of the year will be treated as if they have qualifying insurance coverage and won’t owe any tax penalty, according to the Internal Revenue Service. That’s true regardless of whether the U.S. citizen actually has health insurance in the country where he or she lives.

The IRS reasons that it would be unfair to force Americans living abroad to buy a policy on one of the new health-insurance exchanges that opened Tuesday, because most domestic policies don’t cover anything more than emergency care overseas. This IRS document has more information (see #12 for the information on U.S. citizens abroad).

There are a few other cases where people are exempted from the insurance mandate. These include federally recognized Indian tribe members, prisoners and some religious groups whose beliefs might contradict the law’s requirements. States can also provide hardship exemptions to individuals or families.

Also, if someone loses coverage–say, by being laid off from a job that included health insurance–the penalty doesn’t kick in right away. Consumers will have a three-month grace period to get new coverage. And the IRS has determined that as long as consumers have insurance for at least one day of a month, they will have satisfied the law’s requirements for that month.

For those who don’t fit any of these exemptions and end up paying a penalty for lacking coverage, the burden will quickly rise after 2014. This post has the details.

The Wall Street Journal:  http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/10/02/u-s-citizens-abroad-avoid-health-law-mandate/