Colorado bill would use tax credits to offset ObamaCare penalty

Two Republican lawmakers in Colorado plan to introduce a proposal that would make it easier for residents to opt out of ObamaCare by creating a tax deduction to offset the federal penalty for not purchasing health insurance.

State Reps. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, and Jared Wright, R-Fruita, announced this week that they will introduce the Healthcare Liberty Act when the state's 2014 legislative session convenes in January, KDVR.com reported. 

Under the proposal, anyone who is fined for failing to purchase health insurance would be given a state tax deduction in an amount equal to the federal tax penalty. The deadline for avoiding penalties under ObamaCare is March 31.

“Millions of Americans are learning they will not be able to keep their health insurance under ObamaCare even though the president promised they could,” Nordberg said in a statement. “Congress has failed to act and the President has declined to lead, it is time the state legislature step up and help our constituents deal with the surging costs of ObamaCare.” 

The legislation would face an uphill battle in the Colorado House, where Democrats hold a 37-28 majority. Wright called on Democratic lawmakers to work with Republicans to provide relief to families "negatively impacted by this law."

“Our bill is an appropriate response to the tax penalty and will help people in Colorado who simply cannot afford this expensive new government health insurance mandate,” Wright said.  

House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, told the Denver Business Journal she was "deeply concerned about what this bill could cost the taxpayers of Colorado."

In 2014, the fine to remain uninsured is $95 per person, or 1 percent of taxable income in 2014, whichever is greater. In 2015, the penalty increases to $325 per person, or 2 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.  

According to data released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services, some 9,980 people had signed up for health insurance in Colorado through Nov. 30. 

The Dec. 11 figures show 35,214 applications representing 69,691 people were completed through the Colorado exchange.

Enrollment figures through the exchange are short of expectations. Officials' high-end projection for how many people would enroll in an insurance plan through December was more than 61,000. The low-end projection for enrollments through December is 22,215. 

Federal grants are supporting the Colorado exchange now, but the system is supposed to be self-sustaining by 2016. However, that's contingent in part by healthy enrollment figures.

The system is to pay for itself with per-member charges on the private insurance companies offering policies. It needs 136,300 enrollees in 2014 to raise $6.5 million of its $51.4 million in expenses. 

Nationally, the Obama administration had set a goal of signing up 7 million people by the end of open enrollment season March 31. HHS health reform director Mike Hash has said they are still "on track" to meet that goal.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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