About time someone covered this. It is insane that I've been reading multiple online versions of print sources and watching several hours a day of coverage of the health insurance reform debate and this is the _first_ time I've run across this. I had heard very similar things a year ago before I moved to Massachusetts -- that families of four were looking at premiums substantially larger than their mortgage payment, and, unable to afford that, were having to pay the fine instead.
The individual mandate is a crime, unless coupled with true affordability provisions. In other words, unless you can guarantee that it's cheaper to pay the premium on an acceptable plan than it is to pay the fine, there should not be a fine at all. And really, unless there's a choice to buy into a government administered plan, the whole thing reeks of being taxed to benefit a private concern.