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Roskam: Obamacare and the IRS – A disastrous combination

Community voice

After recent news reports revealed that IRS agents were engaged in widespread, systematic targeting of individuals based on their political and religious beliefs, Americans were rightly outraged. Subsequent Congressional investigations revealed not only were people harassed by agents, but IRS officials had been caught leaking confidential taxpayer information and squandering away millions of tax dollars.

In light of these myriad scandals, the House of Representatives moved to enforce strict oversight of the IRS, curbing their power and putting strong checks in place to prevent future abuses. But thanks to the president’s health care law, the IRS is poised to expand into the health insurance business.  That’s right, the very same agency caught harassing Americans and mishandling their tax information is tasked with the massive undertaking of implementing and enforcing Obamacare. IRS agents will now be collecting information on individual’s health status, enforcing the requirement that everyone get health insurance and fining those who don’t have coverage. In total, the agency will run point on almost 50 new provisions of the health care law. Summing up the cause for serious concern, the Treasury Department watchdog called the number of new responsibilities given to the IRS, “unprecedented in recent history.”

Making matters worse, recent changes in the health care law’s rollout could lead to even more IRS intrusion. In July, the Obama Administration announced they would delay for one year the requirement that employers offer their employees health insurance. However, the Administration left in place the requirement that individuals purchase insurance. The disjointed delay will likely leave many Americans unsure of where to go for their health care. It’s easy to imagine someone thinking their employer isn’t offering insurance, seeking coverage from the law’s state-based health care exchanges and receiving a federal subsidy for care. But come tax season, if the IRS deems the individual was in fact not eligible for the federal benefit, they could be hit with thousands of dollars in fines.  It’s a nightmare scenario for people simply trying to comply with the law.

Trusting the discredited IRS with enforcing a complex and deeply flawed health care law is a recipe for disaster. In order to protect taxpayers and patients, the House of Representatives voted to stop the IRS from implementing or enforcing any part of Obamacare. Health care decisions should be kept between patients and their doctors, and Washington bureaucrats – especially IRS agents who have a track record of abusing their authority – should not be involved in that process. 

Going one step further, the House also passed legislation to delay the individual requirement to purchase health insurance, while also delaying the requirement for employers. If the Obama Administration thinks a one-year delay is good for big business, we should provide the same relief for families and individuals, too. A delay for only big businesses is not only unfair, but puts taxpayers at risk of making a costly error when navigating the health care system on their own. An across the board delay provides some certainty for families and protects them from additional confusion. 

It has been over three years since the health care law was passed, and it’s clear the law is still not ready for prime time. Obamacare is only a few months from going into full effect, and the Administration continues to delay, push deadlines and shut down programs that have been shown not to work. Studies show that the cost of health care continues to rise, while industry experts and doctors warn about a decrease in the quality of care. Barring the IRS from implementing and enforcing the law is a step in the right direction. Delaying the mandates in the law is another. The end goal is to protect individuals from the rising costs and harmful effects of Obamacare, and working to replace it with patient-centered reforms that remove all Washington bureaucrats from your health care decisions. 

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, represents Illinois' 6th District

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