It has been more than a month since the American people first learned that the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeted certain groups seeking tax-exempt status. As Congress intensifies its oversight and investigation into the IRS’s improper actions, anger all across the country is reaching an all-time high. One recent poll shows 68 percent of Americans believe the IRS targeting was purely motivated by politics, not tax policy.
Americans now doubt the self-proclaimed most transparent Administration in history can be trusted. Additional polling suggests the IRS actions have damaged people’s view about the “overall honesty and integrity” of the Obama Administration. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It seems the closer we get to the truth, the more alarming the story becomes.
Yesterday we learned that Fred Schindler, director of implementation and oversight at the IRS Affordable Care Act office, was placed on leave for violating government ethics rules. The IRS’s ACA office is tasked with oversight and implementation of key parts of the President’s health care law. This news is troubling because Mr. Schindler reports directly to Sarah Hall Ingram – the same person who previously led the IRS’s tax exempt office when targeting of non-profit groups, based on beliefs, began.
Doubts are growing about the IRS’s competency to enforce a health care law that the Treasury Inspector General said contained “the largest set of tax law changes in more than 20 years.” Even the IRS’s National Taxpayer Advocate warned she was “concerned about [the IRS’s] ability to administer the new health care credits and penalty taxes in a fair and compassionate way.”
Taxpayers will soon discover the unwelcome role a scandal plagued IRS now plays in the nation’s health care system:
- Tax Man Cometh. The health care law mandates the IRS implement more than 40 new provisions of federal law. At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimate the health care law is a $1 trillion tax hike. Of the 21 tax increases enacted as part of the law, 12 target low and middle income taxpayers – despite President Obama’s pledge that his law would not.
- Bloated Spending. Last year, the Obama Administration secretly transferred $500 million to the IRS to help the agency hide the law’s ballooning implementation costs. The Government Accountability Office estimates the IRS will spend approximately $881 million to implement the law through 2013. The IRS’s fiscal year 2014 budget requested a $439.6 million funding increase and a battalion of 1,954 employees to work on the health law.
- Covert Bureaucrats. The IRS now has an Affordable Care Act office. The person assigned to head this new office is the same person who led the agency’s notorious tax-exempt office where political targeting of non-profit groups took place. But the ACA office cannot actually be found on the public IRS organizational chart. According to another report, the office “is probably some sort of cross-divisional coordinator role within IRS. Assuming it does exist on some (non-public) detailed organizational chart, it probably consists of a handful of staff directly under the Commissioner tasked with making sure all the different parts of [the health care law] that the IRS has to implement fit together.”
- Health Care Information. Since the IRS assesses a tax for each month a person fails to maintain government-approved health insurance, the agency must collect a tremendous amount of data from insurance companies in order to track and monitor compliance. Americans will have to file complicated tax forms to prove to the IRS that they actually bought a health insurance plan.
The IRS is an agency run amuck. When the scandal broke, top Obama political advisor David Axelrod tried to sweep it under the rug, saying, “Part of being President is there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.” That is how President Obama explains his failure to check the rampant misconduct taking place on his watch, despite at least 157 visits by the IRS Commissioner to the White House.
The bottom line is that the Obama Administration has broken faith with the American people. IRS thugs targeted conservative organizations that disagree with President Obama’s political agenda. Now the American people are expected to believe a power hungry IRS can competently and impartially enforce a massive new health care law?
Health Care Headlines
San Jose Mercury News, Senator John Barrasso, op-ed, “Health care reforms squander opportunity to give Americans the care they need” President Obama is scheduled to give a speech in San Jose on Friday about his health care law. Over the past three years, the American people have learned even more about how this law affects their jobs, their paychecks, and their care. The president has a responsibility to address honestly the concerns surrounding this law. I hope he’ll do that Friday.
Real Clear Markets, Tom Miller, “Diagnosing the Real Reasons for Reduced Healthcare Spending” Signs of a revival of the U.S. economy may remain mixed, but at least one sector is booming. There’s a growth market for health economists scrambling to explain the reasons for a slowdown in the rate of national health spending in recent years. Unfortunately, too many of their diagnoses of the past and predictions for the future seem to track their political hopes and wishes more closely than the underlying evidence.
American Action Forum, “The Future of America’s Entitlements: What You Need to Know About the Medicare Trustees Report” The Medicare and Social Security Trustees recently issued their annual report detailing the financial state of America’s entitlement programs, confirming what many Americans know to be true: Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt and fast. In their current form, neither Medicare nor Social Security will be able to deliver on their promises for retiring Americans.
Washington Post, “Sebelius Called J&J, Kaiser, Ascension for Enroll America” U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she talked with health-care companies she regulates, including Johnson & Johnson, about helping a nonprofit group publicize the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Ascension Health, a Catholic health care system, and the nonprofit hospital and insurance company Kaiser Permanente were also urged to lend support, though no financial contributions were requested, Sebelius told lawmakers at a hearing today in Washington.
Wall Street Journal, Daniel Kessler, op-ed, “ObamaCare Is Raising Insurance Costs” California and Oregon have recently announced the premiums for the health plans that will be offered through their ObamaCare insurance exchanges in 2014. Supporters of the law are jubilant. A closer examination of these health plans reveals a less rosy picture. Although the premiums are lower than some anticipated, this has been achieved by designing the plans around much more limited provider networks and including greater cost-sharing than the typical commercial health-insurance plan. The premiums for the policies that will be offered on the states’ exchanges are much higher than analogous plans being sold today.