WASHINGTON (AP) -- The math is harsh: The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695, and the Obama administration is being urged to highlight that cold fact in its new pitch for health law sign-ups.
That means the 2016 sign-up season starting Nov. 1 could see penalties become a bigger focus for millions of people who have remained eligible for coverage, but uninsured. They're said to be squeezed for money, and skeptical about spending what they have on health insurance.
Until now, health overhaul supporters have stressed the benefits: taxpayer subsidies that pay roughly 70 percent of the monthly premium, financial protection against sudden illness or an accident, and access to regular preventive and follow-up medical care.
See related images of healthcare issues impacting the 2016 elections:
A health law fine on the uninsured will more than double
Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Anti-abortion activists demonstrate near a Planned Parenthood clinic Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. The protestors are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Kathy Calver listens to a speaker as she and other anti-abortion activists rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol to condemn the use in medical research of tissue samples from aborted fetuses, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Razor grass and pro-choice signs limit the view of patients entering the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Mississippi's only abortion clinic will likely remain open at least until the fall, because the U.S. Supreme Court is taking no action until then on a dispute over a state law that could close it. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, UNITED STATES - 2015/08/22: Assembly of some 150 anti-abortion protesters behind barricade in front of Planned Parenthood. A coalition of anti-abortion protesters protested on Mott Street in Manhattan in front of Planned Parenthood. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, UNITED STATES - 2015/08/22: Protester with Baby Doe sign in front of Planned Parenthood. A coalition of anti-abortion protesters protested on Mott Street in Manhattan in front of Planned Parenthood. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Planned Parenthood faces mounting criticism amid the release of videos by a pro-life group and demands to vote in the Senate to stop funding. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a Anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Planned Parenthood faces mounting criticism amid the release of videos by a pro-life group and demands to vote in the Senate to stop funding. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Pro-choice protesters chant in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, the anniversary of the Roe v Wade abortion decision. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Republican presidential candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, presents his plan to replace Obamacare, during a visit to Cass Screw Machine Products, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 5: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., testifies during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on 'ObamaCare: Why the Need for an Insurance Company Bailout?' on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., second from right, accompanied by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., left, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, second from left, and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., right, speaks at a press conference on the positive affects of the Affordable Care Act as the Senate convenes for a Sunday session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, July 26, 2015. On the Senate's agenda is an effort to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Barack Obama talks to a man in the audience as he takes questions at Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, July 1, 2015, where he spoke about the Affordable Care Act. The president said he wants to refocus on improving health care quality, expanding access and rooting out waste now that the Supreme Court has upheld a key element of his health care law. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Jessica Ellis, right, holds a sign that says "yay 4 ACA," as she and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act react with cheers as the opinion for health care is reported outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday June 25, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Trent Seubert, left, holds a sign stating that 165,000 people would lose healthcare coverage, as the words "lose healthcare" are covered over with a "still covered" sticker outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2015, after the court decided that the without the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may provide nationwide tax subsidie. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2014 file photo, the HealthCare.gov website, where people can buy health insurance, is displayed on a laptop screen, in Portland, Ore. The Illinois Hospital Association in cash-strapped Illinois says the state might be able to set up a health insurance exchange at a lower cost by âleasingâ the federal governmentâs technology, an option that could appeal to as many as 34 states where subsides could be jeopardized by an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling. . (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25: Affordable Care Act supporters hold up signs outside the Supreme Court as they wait for the court's decision on Obamacare on Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
FILE-- In this Sept. 16, 2013 file photo, Gov. Rick Snyder, center, signs legislation at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Mich. that will make more low-income adults eligible for Medicaid. One year after more low-income adults in Michigan became eligible for Medicaid under the federal health care law, enrollment is skyrocketing near 600,000, well above initial projections. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION - Over 50 AIDS awareness advocates gather to protest in front of the Employment Development Department spearheaded by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) on Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. The protest was over Cal/OSHAâs five-year delay in amending and tightening California workplace safety regulations regarding condom use in adult film production to better protect adult film workers. (Steve Yeater/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation) Â
University of Maryland medical student Sarah Britz, center, and others, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 4, 2015 in Washington, as the court was hearing arguments in King v. Burwell, a major test of President Barack Obama's health overhaul which, if successful, could halt health care premium subsidies in all the states where the federal government runs the insurance marketplaces. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
In this photo taken Feb. 24, 2015, Kimberly Davis holds the medications she now takes to slow the progression of her multiple sclerosis, at her home in Jackson, Miss. The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week over whether millions of people covered by the nationâs health care law can legally continue to get financial help to pay for their insurance. If the court says no, millions of consumers across more than 30 states could lose federal subsidies for their premiums. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25 - Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate as the opinion for health care is reported outside of the Supreme Court in Washington,Thursday June 25, 2015. The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
RICHMOND, CA - MARCH 31: Posters about Obamacare are posted on a window during a healthcare enrollment fair at the Bay Area Rescue Mission on March 31, 2014 in Richmond, California. SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) held the fair to help people sign up for free and low-cost health coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California on the final day before the sign-up deadline. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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But in 2016, the penalty for being uninsured will rise to the greater of either $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income. That's for someone without coverage for a full 12 months. This year the comparable numbers are $325 or 2 percent of income.
Marketing usually involves stressing the positive. Rising penalties meet no one's definition of good news. Still, that may create a new pitch:
The math is pretty clear. A consumer would be able to get six months or more of coverage for $695, instead of owing that amount to the IRS as a tax penalty. (That example is based on subsidized customers now putting in an average of about $100 a month of their own money.)
Backers of the law are urging the administration to drive the math lesson home.
"Given that the penalty is larger, it does make sense to bring it up more frequently," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group. "It's an increasing factor in people's decisions about whether or not to get enrolled."
"More and more, people are mentioning the sticks as well as the carrots," said Katherine Hempstead, director of health insurance coverage for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that has helped facilitate the insurance expansion under Obama's law.
Administration officials are looking for a balance.
"We need to be make sure that we are very clear and explicit about that $695 penalty so people understand the choice they are making," said spokeswoman Lori Lodes. But she said the main emphasis will stay on the benefits of having health insurance and how the law's subsidies can dramatically lower the cost of monthly premiums.
The requirement that individuals get health insurance or face fines remains the most unpopular part of President Barack Obama's health care law, a prime target of Republican repeal efforts. It started at $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014. The fact that it's gone up so much may take consumers by surprise.
But many experts consider the mandate essential to Obama's overall approach, as does the insurance industry. The law forbids insurers from turning away people with health problems, and the coverage requirement forces healthy people into the insurance pool, helping to keep premiums in check. After 2016, the fines will rise with inflation.
This year was the first time the IRS collected the penalties, deducting them from taxpayers' refunds for the 2014 tax year in most cases. Some 7.5 million households paid penalties totaling $1.5 billion, an average of $200 apiece, according to preliminary IRS data. Separately, another 12 million households claimed exemptions from the mandate because of financial hardships or other reasons.
Although Obama's law is five years old and has survived two Supreme Court challenges, administration officials say the upcoming open enrollment season won't be easy. It may be a struggle to just keep about the same number of people covered.
The administration has set a goal of 10 million customers enrolled and paying their premiums by the end of 2016 on HealthCare.gov and state insurance markets. That's roughly the number covered now, well below what congressional budget analysts had estimated for 2016. The administration expects most will be returning customers, but 3 million to 4 million will be people who are currently uninsured.
Among the difficulties for next year: Premiums are expected to go up more than they did this year, even if subsidies cushion the cost. The most eager customers have already signed up. And many of those remaining may have other financial priorities for their tight budgets, like car repairs or putting money in savings accounts.
Sign-up season starts Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31. As a result of the law, the share of people in the United States lacking health insurance is at a historic low of about 9 percent, and the White House wants to keep that trend going during Obama's last full year in office.