The insurance exchanges wont be ready until 2014. Then you can choose an insurance plan to fit your needs and budget from major insurance companies. When you file your tax return you get a tax credit to subsidize the cost of the insurance.
The cost is unknown since you have to choose your own health insurance and each has its own coverage, deductible, co-pays. You dont have to buy an expensive comprehensive plan.
If you pay the penalty instead of getting a credit, it seems to me a waste of money when it could go toward getting insurance. An adult who does not have health insurance by 2014 would be penalized $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater, so long as the amount does not exceed the price tag of a basic health plan.
But by 2016, the penalty increases to $695 for an uninsured adult, and up to $2,085 per household, or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater.