When it comes to health care, IRS should be IRX

Shutterstock.com

Article Highlights

  • The scandal-plagued Internal Revenue Service is "overtaxed" in its new role as key enforcement agency for Obamacare

    Tweet This

  • If Obamacare cannot be implemented without putting a runaway executive branch agency on steroids, we need to delay

    Tweet This

  • More funding for the IRS will only toss more fuel on the raging fire engulfing Obamacare

    Tweet This

WASHINGTON — The scandal-plagued Internal Revenue Service is "overtaxed" in its new role as the key enforcement agency for Obamacare.

Congress should call a timeout on the IRS grab for more taxpayer funds to implement the sweeping mandates and information disclosures required by the Affordable Care Act. That means no extra revenue for the health insurance cops without clear and convincing evidence of reform that will curb their abusive practices.

On March 5, the Department of the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George told a House committee, "It is unprecedented in recent history, the amount of responsibility the IRS is being given in an area that most people don't think of as an IRS function."

Noting that this new level of IRS involvement in health care will trigger a flood of questions, aggravate service problems and force trade-offs in use of limited resources, George observed, "They have to determine what enforcement mechanisms they'll employ ... how they go about determining who to audit and who not to."

Those are chilling words in light of this spring's revelations about how the IRS targeted certain political groups for harsh treatment when they sought tax exempt status - particularly when the current head of IRS efforts to implement and enforce Obamacare, Sarah Hall Ingram, previously was commissioner of the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities division when that round of discrimination started.

The IRS was assigned a massive role in implementing the ACA, involving more than a dozen new taxes or tax increases, 47 different statutory provisions, and coordination across many federal agencies.

Implementation costs were expected to reach more than $880 million through fiscal year 2013, and the IRS requested an additional $439 million in its FY 2014 budget submission to Congress.

While the IRS managed to spend about $50 million on conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012 - including line dancing practice by IRS attendees, and producing a Star Trek video parody - it is having trouble carrying out its list of ACA assignments.

On July 2, the aministration suspended until 2015 the enforcement of the employer mandate reporting requirements and penalties.

Several days later, it quietly announced that state-administered health exchanges would no longer need to verify the eligibility of individual applicants for insurance coverage tax subsidies.

An applicant's attestation about household income, and lack of "qualified" coverage offered by his or her employer, will be close enough for government work until 2015. With such an "honor system" policy in place, much of the envisioned IRS data matching and mandate enforcement will remain on pause control.

The above breakdowns in the ACA's unrealistically complex and contorted implementation schemes are the clearest signals yet that we can't get from here to there without seriously rethinking the law's goals, methods, and assumptions - particularly involving the IRS.

The short-term remedy is to keep the agency on its pre-ACA budget until its officials demonstrate a permanent commitment to reform of past abusive practices.

In the federal government, failure in achieving program goals too often is rewarded with more, rather than less, funding.

Given the potentially vast powers of the IRS under the ACA to intrude into sensitive information about income, employment, insurance coverage and personal health, any additional injections of taxpayer funds for such enhanced IRS enforcement should stop right here.

If Obamacare cannot be implemented without putting a runaway executive branch agency on steroids, we need to delay - or change - more ACA provisions than just the employer mandate and coverage eligibility verification.

The long-term remedy involves Congress limiting the IRS role to revenue collection, rather than health-care regulation and income redistribution. Then, it should rethink its overall approach to health reform. More funding for the IRS will only toss more fuel on the raging fire engulfing Obamacare.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Thomas P.
Miller

What's new on AEI

Love people, not pleasure
image Oval Office lacks resolve on Ukraine
image Middle East Morass: A public opinion rundown of Iraq, Iran, and more
image Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad and the facts they didn't tell you
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.