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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and your VA health care coverage

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)—also known as the health care law—was created to expand access to coverage, control health care costs, and improve health care quality and care coordination. Find out what you need to know about the ACA and your health coverage.

Do I still have to pay a penalty if I don’t have health insurance?

You don’t have to pay a penalty if you don’t have health insurance in 2019 or any year after that.

Through the end of 2018, the ACA required all U.S. taxpayers to have health coverage that met a minimum standard (called the “minimum essential coverage” requirement) unless they qualified for an exemption due to certain life events, financial status, or other factors. This meant that if you had affordable health coverage options, but chose not to buy health insurance, you would have to pay a fee when filing your taxes. This fee was known as an individual shared responsibility payment. It was also sometimes called the “penalty,” “fine,” or “individual mandate.”

Congress changed this part of the law for plans starting in 2019 and after. The individual shared responsibility payment no longer applies starting in plan year 2019.

Note: If you didn’t have coverage or an exemption in 2018, you may still have had to pay a fee when you filed your 2018 taxes in 2019.
Go to to learn more about exemptions

Does the ACA change my VA health benefits?

No. The health care law doesn’t change your VA health benefits or your out-of-pocket costs.

If I’m not signed up for a VA or Department of Defense health care program, how do I get health coverage?

You may be able to get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. You can enroll in a plan during open enrollment periods.

You may also be able to enroll or change plans if you:

  • Have certain life changes, or
  • Qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

To find out if you can enroll or change your plan, go to