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A Toxic Combination

Obamacare meets the IRS

Jun 3, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 36 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Obamacare will require workers—against the established norms in this country—to divulge their entire household income to their employers. It will also require all citizens to divulge specifics about their health insurance to the IRS. The IRS will need to know what kind of insurance you have, and it will need to know what it covers. Only then will it be able to decide whether to penalize you.

Moreover, Obamacare will require Americans to update the IRS regularly on what’s going on in their lives. Marriages, divorces, job changes, moves, pay raises, even changes in numbers of hours worked—these are all things on which the IRS will expect to be kept well informed. During congressional testimony last summer, Rep. Tim Walberg (R.-Mich.) asked IRS official Nina Olson, “Do you believe that most Americans are going to update the IRS or state exchanges when they change jobs, get married, move states, whatever?” “I think it’s going to be a very great learning curve,” Olson replied. “I think it will be a surprise to taxpayers if they don’t update their information.”

As it collects data on potential violators of Obamacare’s coercive mandates, the IRS will be aided by the creation of a new Federal Data Services Hub, which will allow information to be collected and shared between the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, the several states, and the IRS. As if enough privacy concerns weren’t raised by this, HHS has contracted with a private company—Quality Software Services, Inc., a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group—to help build and police Obamacare’s exchanges. So it won’t just be government entities that have access to Americans’ sensitive data.

And who will be the director of the IRS’s Obamacare office? None other than Sarah Hall Ingram, who has lately been in the news for her work running the IRS office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012, ground zero for the IRS’s heavy-handed treatment of Tea Party organizations.

As detailed in the Treasury audit, the IRS National Headquarters Affordable Care Act Office isn’t really just one office. It actually comprises three program management offices (PMOs), four executive steering committees (ESCs), and various “Services and Enforcement Exchange Working Teams.” The four functional ESCs and the working teams will report to the PMOs, which in turn will report to the IRS ACA executive steering committee. No doubt President Obama and his subordinates will keep close tabs on the actions of these entities and hold them accountable long before the press uncovers any misdoings. But, just in case, it might be helpful to keep this organizational map handy in the event the IRS comes asking about your health care.

The only way out of this mess—short of full repeal, which will have to wait until a Republican presidential candidate advances a meaningful alternative, makes that the centerpiece of his campaign, and wins the presidency—is to eliminate the IRS’s role in implementing and enforcing Obamacare. Whatever thoughts most Americans might have about the appropriate way to provide medical care, they presumably center on their doctor, not the taxman. On both sides of the aisle, it’s time for Congress to show similar reasonableness—and disentangle the IRS from our health care system.

Jeffrey H. Anderson is executive director of the newly formed 2017 Project, which is working to advance a conservative reform agenda.

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