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Stephanopoulos Challenges Obama on Individual Mandate

Morgen on September 20, 2009 at 3:58 pm

ABC’s “This Week” aired a somewhat testy exchange today between host George Stephanopoulos and President Obama on whether a mandate for individuals to obtain health insurance coverage is equivalent to a tax. Watch:

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As I highlighted in a post just last week, this question isn’t as clear-cut as the President makes it out to be. The Congressional Budget Office has taken the position that an individual mandate combined with tight regulatory control over the insurance plans available to consumers would necessitate classifying the mandated insurance premiums as revenue (i.e. taxes) in the federal budget. And as Stephanopoulos pointed out, a common sense, dictionary definition would suggest that the federal government requiring an individual to purchase something for the “public good” would in fact be a tax.

And if this is not a tax, as the President claims, than why do the Democrat bills making their way through Congress rely on the IRS for enforcement of the individual mandate? In fact, take a look at what the House bill (H.R. 3200) calls the penalties imposed on an individual who does not purchase insurance as required: 

SEC. 59B. TAX ON INDIVIDUALS WITHOUT ACCEPTABLE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE.

(a) TAX IMPOSED. In the case of any individual who does not meet the requirements of subsection (d) at any time during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 2.5 percent…

That’s right – a tax. Even the bill coming out of the Senate Finance Committee – which is ostensibly so “moderate” that I don’t think any Democrat other than Baucus supports it – calls these penalties a “tax” as well. The reason is simple.

It’s because they are a tax. And frankly, I think there is a strong case to be made that any insurance premiums compelled via a government enforced mandate are effectively new taxes as well.

This is just one of these unfortunate, but obvious truths that a President who has vowed not to raise taxes on the middle class can not afford to admit.

Lastly, keep in mind that the individual mandate is a very critical element for the passage of ObamaCare. Without it, the insurance lobby which up until now has supported most of the President’s reform agenda will come out strongly against passage of the final bill. And it’s also closely tied to the debate over the public option as the left is vehemently opposed to an individual mandate which benefits only the private insurance companies. So pay close attention to whether the contentiousness of this issue heats up in the coming week. I predict it will.

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Category: Health & Education, Politics |

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