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2014 is the first year most Americans will have to either have health insurance or face a tax penalty.But most people who are of the penalty think it's pretty small, at least for this first year. And that could turn into an expensive mistake."I'd say the vast majority of people I've dealt with really believe that the penalty is only $95, if they know about it at all," says Brian Haile, senior vice president for health policy at . "And when people find out, they're stunned. It's much, much higher than they would expect."In fact, "the penalty is the maximum of either $95 or 1 percent of taxable income in 2014," according to Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the . "For people with higher incomes it can be much more sizable than $95."The proportion of sign-ups for health insurance by age group on the federal and state exchanges.Blumberg says that even for people with more moderate incomes, it's important to remember that the flat fee penalty will be assessed for every family member who lacks health coverage."So if it's a two-adult household and both are uninsured, it's twice $95; $190," he says. "Then if there are any children in the family that are uninsured, the penalty for each of them is half of the $95."The flat fee penalty maxes out at $285 next year. To help people figure out what they might owe, the , jointly run by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, just posted an . And Jackson Hewitt has its own "How much is my tax penalty?" .Haile says it's important to remember that even if most of the family has insurance, having just one uninsured member can trigger the penalty."If you've got someone who comes home to live it could cost you much more than a spare bedroom," he says. "If you claim that child as a dependent, or could claim that child as a dependent, then you suddenly become liable for penalties if that child lacks minimum essential coverage."The 1 percent penalty, for those hit with that, also has a cap, but the penalty can still get pretty big. The cap is tied to the cost of the . This year's top penalty could be about $3,600 for an individual, and $11,000 for a family of four.Oregon's road to health coverage continues to be bumpy; the website for the state's health insurance marketplace still isn't fully open to consumers.If you're uninsured and earn enough to be potentially liable for penalties, you have to sign up for coverage by the end of this month in order to avoid them."Your only chance to buy insurance, unless you have a special qualifying event, is during this open enrollment period," Haile says, "which makes March 31 an incredibly important date for avoiding the penalty. If you want to avoid the penalty, you need to get in and sign up for coverage now."