Health bill would widen role of IRS

Marketplace Staff Jan 4, 2010
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Health bill would widen role of IRS

Marketplace Staff Jan 4, 2010
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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: President Obama is back in Washington. Members of the House and Senate are trickling back into town after their holiday break. For Democrats, reaching a final deal on health care is New Year’s resolution number one. There are some differences between the two chambers.

But one thing both houses of Congress do appear to agree on is that the Internal Revenue Service apparently needs more work. The health care bill being drafted would make the taxman the one to verify that Americans are indeed buying the health insurance they’re going to have to have. Brett Neely has more.


BRETT NEELY: If a health care bill becomes law, Americans will have to prove they have health insurance on their annual tax return.

Those without insurance will have to pay a penalty — to the IRS.

The IRS’s role doesn’t come as a surprise to Roberton Williams at the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center.

ROBERTON WILLIAMS: The IRS is a convenient tool because we all have to file tax returns every year. We’re already sending something to the IRS telling them other things about ourselves.

Williams says using the IRS is based on Massachusetts health care overhaul in 2006. Residents there have to prove they’re covered when they file their taxes.

But Michael Cannon at the libertarian Cato Institute takes another lesson from Massachusetts. Namely, that people cheat.

MICHAEL CANNON: There is non-compliance with the mandate. There’s even evidence that people are concealing their insurance status from the government.

The IRS will do more than just collect penalties from those who don’t buy insurance. It will also send out checks to small businesses and low-income Americans who qualify for health insurance subsidies.

In Washington, I’m Brett Neely for Marketplace.

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