6% Solution? Mandate Scofflaws Face Penalties, Fines and Imprisonment

by JC

scofflaws
I’ve known that it would eventually come to this. Us single payer advocates liked the simplicity of the system: auto enrollment for all citizens. You get sick, or have an accident and need health care, you just go to the doctor or ER and get it. If you hadn’t signed up for the plan yet, that was no problem. You could do it at the point of health care delivery.

Now that single payer is no longer on the table, universal health care (or 94% universal in the Baucus plan) can only be achieved through coercion. Buy insurance–either private or through some nebulous, and yet to be contrived public option or coop–or pay a fine. Penalty. Whatever.

So we have been asked to accept the regressive notion of mandates, necessary to maintain the status quo of corporatism in private health care insurance monopolies, in order to (almost, kinda, sorta) achieve the progressive goal of universal health care.

This is where the libertarian streak in many of us progressives really starts to jump out, and to join forces with conservatives to question just what in the hell are democrats turning into?

You see, I’m against a mandate that is enforced through the IRS. Always have been–since I first read about it last year in Baucus’ white paper–and always will be. And I don’t like the government mechanism to assist those who can’t afford a private or public plan relying on the use of tax credits. There are far better ways of doing it.

Lower and middle income people with any sort of tax offset will never get the tax credits needed to buy the insurance–unless mandaters come up with a mechanism to bypass offsets, which I’ve never heard of the IRS doing. And I have yet to see a mechanism by which Baucus’ plan will guarantee credits to those with offsets.

Of course, there are those that will say that people with IRS offsets aren’t worthy enough to qualify for subsidies to help pay for insurance. A new “Uniquely American™” tale of two cities.

Basically, I’m against the IRS getting involved in health care in any fashion. Just doesn’t make sense, even when mandaters propose “exceptions.” See, there are going to be at least 6% uninsured in the faux nuevo universal care system that is being proposed and marked up as we read.

Are all 6% going to be given exemptions? Will the rest who are mandated, but unexempted be subject to fines? What will happen to non filers? Homeless and/or mentally ill? Round ’em up and ship them off to scofflaw and debtor jail-camps? Tattoo a “Need Not Apply” disclaimer on the arms of those living under bridges, or who have defaulted on student loans, have unpaid back taxes, or missed child support payments?

Dude, better get straight with the IRS quick, or they’ll have another way to strong-arm you into compliance.

In some ways I read into Baucus’ proposal a carrot-and-stick approach to bolstering IRS and tax law compliance. Health care being the carrot, and penalty, fine and jail being the stick. All hail the mighty IRS health care compliance cops. Let’s build an even more unjust system of haves and have nots. Piss off the IRS in any way, and you’ll just have to suffer the consequences of unaffordable, unsubsidized health insurance. Take that! Off with you!

In an exchange on George Stephanopolous’ “This Week” between Senator Chuck Grassley, Baucus, and Joint Committee on Taxation chief of staff, Thomas Barthold, we discover that the penalty for not submitting to mandation is in effect a penalty excise tax, enforceable under current IRS tax laws.

Grassley: It gets back to something that President Obama was speaking about on the Sunday talk shows, trying to say that it’s not true that the penalty for not getting insurance is a tax, referring to the individual mandate.

The mark before us makes it pretty clear that the penalty is a tax, it looks like the tax is now up to about $2,000 dollars a year, so Mr. Barthold, isn’t the penalty here an excise tax and won’t it affect people making under $250,000 dollars a year?

Barthold: Senator Grassley, the penalty proposed in the Chairman’s mark, is as you observed, it’s structured as a penalty excise tax, we have other penalty excise taxes in the internal revenue code…

We have not done a combined distribution analyses across income to specifically answer your question but to the extent that yes we think that some people would be subject to the penalty excise tax when everything shakes out we would expect that some would have incomes less than $200,000 dollars.

Baucus: Let me just say on that point, that’s an interesting question. This is really a penalty that’s being collected by the Internal Revenue Service…

And of course, if you flout those laws and don’t–or can’t–pay the penalty, you are subject to an up to $25,000 dollar fine, and 1 year in prison. To further illuminate this problem, Senator Ensign specifically asked Barthold about the penalty for not having insurance, the potential fine for not paying it, and ultimately jail time:

Under questioning from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Barthold said the IRS would “take you to court and undertake normal collection proceedings.”

And to underscore his point, Barthold provided Ensign with a hand written note to that effect, that I posted above.

On the bright side, I hear that you get free health care while in prison.

On the down side, it is so odd that I find myself siding with Senator’s Grassley and Ensign on this matter. How democrats ever wound up accepting such a regressive compromise as Baucus’ IRS mandated non-universal health care system, when one with auto enrollment made so much more sense is beyond me. Well, beyond me until I read Baucus’ campaign finance reports, that is.

I hope that some fine progressives in the House find a way to do away with the regressive nature of this system, and work to fix it. Otherwise, the feds are going to have to figure out a way to pay for and provide lots of free health care via the government run federal penitentiary system–a true single payer system, if ever there was one. And I guess you get a hot meal and place to sleep with that, too.

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  1. problembear

    Congress and obama need to provide a strong public option or a whole lot of us will be joining the republicans in opposing this.

    Better to kill a bad bill like this and regroup for single payer in 2012.

    • Big Swede

      Will they’re be any Dems after O’s Waterloo?

      • problembear

        just a one time unholy alliance swede. i will always be independent. i hate both parties almost equally.

        watch out for single payer in 2012 though. if this thing flushes, there will be plenty of people ready for real change by 2012, and after fighting change tooth and nail with no regard for human suffering i doubt if republicans will get much support. obama will survive regardless. but we independents will scare the hell out of him first.

  2. Jim Lang

    He was paid max bucks to write a health care plan that would force you to buy private insurance or go to jail, and he delivered.

  3. An outstanding post that I wish I had written. What Baucus proposes is, in effect, the modern equivalent of debtors prisons. It’s vindictive, unenforceable, and amounts to police state health care.

  4. jacksmith

    ATTENTION!! Congress Has The Votes Needed To Pass A Public Option – TODAY http://bit.ly/TCq7O

    Why A Strong Public Option Is Essential – By jacksmith – Working Class

    Robert Reich explains the pubic option: http://bit.ly/dDYSJ

    Hollywood Supports The Public Option :-) http://bit.ly/3XLwPi

    It’s not just because more than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 77% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (86% of democrats, 75% of independents, and 72% republicans). Basically everyone.

    It’s not just because according to a new AARP POLL: 86 percent of seniors want universal healthcare security for All, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans. With 79% of seniors supporting creating a new strong Government-run public option plan, available immediately. Including 89% of Democrats, 80% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans, STUNNING!!

    It’s not just because it will lower cost. Because a strong public option will dramatically lower cost for everyone. And dramatically improved the quality of care everyone receives in America and around the World. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    It’s not just because it will save trillions of dollars and prevent the needless deaths of millions more of YOU, caused by a rush to profit by the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!

    It’s not just because every expert in every field, including economist, and Nobel laureates all agree that free market based healthcare systems don’t work. Never have and never will. The US has the only truly free market based healthcare system in the World. And as you all know now, IT IS A DISASTER!

    It’s not just because providing or denying medically necessary care for profit motivations is wrong. Because it is WRONG! It’s professionally, ethically, and morally REPUGNANT!, Animalistic, VILE and EVIL.

    THE REASON THE PUBLIC OPTION IS ESSENTIAL:

    The public option is ESSENTIAL because over 200 million of you are trapped in the forest of the wolves. Which is the forest of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! With no way out except through needless inhumane suffering, and DEATH. While the wolves tear at your flesh, and rip you limb from lib. Then feast on your lifeless bodies like a dead carcase for transplant parts.

    At the most vulnerable times of your lives (when you were sick and hurting), millions of you have had to fight and loose cruel, but heroic battles. Fighting against the big guns of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! in the forest of the wolves. All because you have no place else to go. You have no other CHOICE!

    But the PUBLIC OPTION will give you someplace safe to go. And it will give us someplace safe to take you. The public option will be your refugium (your refuge). Where the wolves cannot get at you when your down, hurting, and vulnerable. Where everyone who needs it can find rest, security, comfort and the care they need. Protected by the BIG GUNS of We The People Of The United States. THE MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE AND COUNTRY ON EARTH.

    This is why it is so critical that we do not lead another 50 million vulnerable, uninsured Americans into the forest of the wolves, without the protections of a Strong Government-run public option. We The People Of The United States MUST NOT LET THAT HAPPEN to any more of our fellow Americans. If healthcare reform does not contain a strong public option on day one. YOU MUST! KILL IT. Or you will do far more harm than good. And millions more will die needlessly. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    To those who would continue to obstruct good and true healthcare reform for the American people, and who seek to trap millions more vulnerable Americans in the forest of the wolves. We will continue to fight you. We are prepared to wage all out war against you, and will eagerly DESTROY! you. Time…is…UP! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! No Co-op’s! No Triggers! NO INDIVIDUAL MANDATES! without a Strong public option on day one.

    Healthcare reform can be the GREATEST! Accomplishment of our time and century. A time when future generations may say of us, that we were all, AMERICAS GREATEST GENERATIONS.

    BUT WE MUST ACT!

    I therefore call on all my fellow Americans and the peoples of the World. To join us in this fight so that we may finish becoming the better America that we aspire to be for everyone.

    SPREAD THE WORD!

    I have been privileged to be witness as many of you fought, and struggled to take your first breath, and your last breath on this earth. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Life is precious.

    Whatever the cost. WE! MUST SUCCEED.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings

    jacksmith – Working Class

    Things You Can Do To Help NOW! http://www.everydaycitizen.com/2009/09/tired_of_watching_people_die_n.html

    No Triggers! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-rosenbaum/a-trigger-for-the-public_b_277910.html

    Triggers http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sirota/weve-seen-these-triggers_b_283583.html

    Krugman on heathcare (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/)

    Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSM8t_cLZgk&feature=player_embedded)

    John Garamendi on the Public Option and the Grassroots: http://bit.ly/TJMty

    Howard Dean on the Public Option http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SKfW2dUnow&feature=player_embedded

    We’re Number 37! in quality of health care http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVgOl3cETb4&feature=player_embedded

    Twitter search (#welovethenhs #NHS #hc09 #hcr #healthcar #obama #p2 #topprog #) Check it out.

  5. klemz

    If the contents of the following paragraph appear in any final version, a lot of people (me included) will jump ship.

    “Excise Tax. The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax. If a taxpayer‘s MAGI is between 100-300 percent of FPL, the excise tax for failing to obtain coverage for an individual in a taxpayer unit (either as a taxpayer or an individual claimed as a dependent) is $750 per year. However, the maximum penalty for the taxpayer unit is $1,500. If a taxpayer‘s MAGI is above 300 percent of FPL the penalty for failing to obtain coverage for an individual in a taxpayer unit (either as a taxpayer or as an individual claimed as a dependent) is $950 year. However, the maximum penalty amount a family above 300 percent of FPL would pay is $3,800.”

    But there’s an exemption if the cheapest available plan would be less than 10 percent of your gross income. How in the hell are they supposed to audit that? This whole thing is getting silly.

    • klemz

      sorry, make that more than 10 percent

  6. problembear

    this guy does a good job of boiling down confusing versions of public option to an understandable essence….
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/24-11

    this doesn’t look too good for real change i can believe in.

  7. Pogo Possum

    I guess those “teabaggers”, you all so derogatorily refer to, might not be as crazy as many in here portray them to be.

    • klemz

      Pogo, given the name they chose to adopt, the adaptation of the derogatory term you refer to was so blatantly obvious that I can’t help but blame the organizers for walking blindly into that land mine.

      I mean, come on. The only way it could have been worse is if they called themselves… operation donkey punch. Or something like that.

    • JC

      Did I say anything about tea baggers in this post?

      Baucus did what he does so well–piss off both sides of the ideological divide with one provision. That’s what he calls a compromise.

      How does that make some tea baggers any less crazy?

  8. problembear

    it is a far cry from being independent in one’s thinking and withholding support for this bill in hopes of accomplishing real change in health care for those who lack it to becoming a ditto-head tea-bagger who shoves women and children for a piece of ground to scream at the president and to display racist signs and selfishly try to deny change because “we can’t afford it” while supporting private health insurers who kill us by denying insurance.

    a far cry indeed.

    i don’t consider most tea-baggers crazy. but i do consider them to be selfish, ignorant and short-sighted.

  1. 1 CBO: Baucus Faux Universal Health Care Bill to Leave 25 Million Uninsured « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] more sharply defining the edges between the haves and the have nots. And for the have nots, he has devised a system of penalties, excise tax fines, and possible IRS criminal prosecutions ending with jail […]

  2. 2 Obamacare Upheld; Roberts the Swing Vote??? « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] In fact, I’ve equated it with just another step in the fascistization of America. You can read what I had to say about Obamacare almost 3 years ago, pointing to the IRS tax as being its saving grace, as Justice Roberts just ruled. But my opinion […]




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