I would really like to think that Byron York is misinformed in his report about the IRS potentially getting involved in making sure that people have adequate health insurance, and punishing those who do not under some versions of health care reform. But I fear that he may not be:
There’s been a lot of discussion about the new and powerful federal agencies that would be created by the passage of a national health care bill. The Health Choices Administration, the Health Benefits Advisory Committee, the Health Insurance Exchange — there are dozens in all.
But if the plan envisioned by President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats is enacted, the primary federal bureaucracy responsible for implementing and enforcing national health care will be an old and familiar one: the Internal Revenue Service. Under the Democrats’ health care proposals, the already powerful — and already feared — IRS would wield even more power and extend its reach even farther into the lives of ordinary Americans, and the presidentially-appointed head of the new health care bureaucracy would have access to confidential IRS information about millions of individual taxpayers.
In short, health care reform, as currently envisioned by Democratic leaders, would be built on the foundation of an expanded and more intrusive IRS.
Under the various proposals now on the table, the IRS would become the main agency for determining who has an “acceptable” health insurance plan; for finding and punishing those who don’t have such a plan; for subsidizing individual health insurance costs through the issuance of a tax credits; and for enforcing the rules on those who attempt to opt out, abuse, or game the system. A substantial portion of H.R. 3200, the House health care bill, is devoted to amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in order to give the IRS the authority to perform these new duties.
The Democrats’ plan would require all Americans to have “acceptable” insurance coverage (the legislation includes long and complex definitions of “acceptable”) and would designate the IRS as the agency charged with enforcing that requirement. On your yearly 1040 tax return, you would be required to attest that you have “acceptable” coverage. Of course, you might be lying, or simply confused about whether or not you are covered, so the IRS would need a way to check your claim for accuracy. Under current plans, insurers would be required to submit to the IRS something like the 1099 form in which taxpayers report outside income. The IRS would then check the information it receives from the insurers against what you have submitted on your tax form.
If it all matches up, you’re fine. If it doesn’t, you will hear from the IRS. And if you don’t have “acceptable” coverage, you will be subject to substantial fines — fines that will be administered by the IRS.
Dare we hope that this is much ado about nothing? Because if it isn’t . . . well . . . if you thought that the electorate could not be any more averse to the various plans for health care reform, just you watch.