Minimum essential coverage
Starting in 2014, the Individual Shared Responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act made you responsible for having minimum essential coverage, or MEC, in health insurance. Otherwise, you need to be eligible for a health care exemption, or you could pay a penalty when filing your income tax return.
MEC is the mandated responsibility of every individual and is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as:
- A qualified health plan purchased in the health insurance marketplace
- Employer-sponsored coverage including COBRA
- Self-insured plans and retiree coverage
- Medicare Part A and Advantage plans
- Most Medicaid offerings
- Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Coverage offered to Peace Corp volunteers
- Various veteran’s health coverage
- Most TRICARE coverage
- A variety of self-funded and state high-risk pools
There are some exemptions to this mandate, including being unable to afford MEC due to financial hardship. Under this provision, a smoker who can prove hardship may not have to pay a penalty.