SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) --Millions of Americans pay a penalty because they don't have health insurance.
Some feel the penalty is cheaper than the insurance, but 7 On Your Side reports why this is not a good idea.
A San Francisco woman who received expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act knows firsthand the importance of health insurance. She says she owes her life to the expanded coverage.
Shipra Shukla swings herself upright onto the trapeze at the Circus Center in San Francisco. It's a move known as the "pike to seat."
Back in 2014, Shukla feared she had suffered a trapeze-related injury.
"I was just sitting around one day. Felt one shoulder, felt the other and I'm like one shoulder feels a little different," she said.
She went to see the doctor, expecting to be diagnosed with a shoulder strain. After weeks of testing, her doctor told her she had cancer.
"It was hard for me to believe because I just felt like I feel, so healthy, how could this be possible?" Shulka recalled.
If it had been a year earlier, Shukla said she wouldn't have seen a doctor because she couldn't afford it.
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That changed when she was enrolled in Medi-Cal, under expanded coverage of the Affordable Care Act.
She said that doctor's visit saved her life.
Her doctor at UCSF agrees. "She had no symptoms and was already at a stage 3. If she had waited until the time she had symptoms, she could have been as far along as a stage 4," Dr. Jo Marie Munnich said.
Preliminary numbers released by the IRS found that last tax season, 7.5 million taxpayers paid a penalty because they did not have health insurance.
The total penalty paid was $1.5 billion.
"I think that they also don't understand just exactly how much coverage each of those premiums gets them," Munnich said.
The minimum penalty paid this past tax season was $325 for adults and $162.50 for children under 18. That increases to $695 and $347.50 this tax year.
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"When I went in to see the oncologist, I asked him what would happen if I did nothing. They said you would probably die," Shulka said.
Today, Shukla's cancer is in remission after completing her treatment 13 months ago.
She said she owes it all to having a good health plan.
"I was able to go to the best doctors and get really like top notch coverage, I felt," she said.
Shukla is currently employed and now has health coverage through her employer-sponsored plan.
For more stories about the Affordable Care Act, click here.