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June 28, 2012

Small Comfort On Today's Individual Mandate Decision

If it's any comfort to those of you who are depressed by today's SCOTUS ruling on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, please be assured that President Obama vehemently rejects the Court's reasoning:

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...your critics say it is a tax increase.

OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I'm taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we're going to have an individual mandate or not, but...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you reject that it's a tax increase?

OBAMA: I absolutely reject that notion.

At the time Obama made that statement, the Senate Finance Committee had just released its own health care bill, which clearly referred to the mandate penalty as an "excise tax." But in later versions, the word "tax" was stripped, because it had become too much of a political liability for Democrats. The final version that Obama signed did not describe the mandate as a tax, and used the Commerce Clause -- not federal taxing power -- as the Constitutional justification for the mandate.

Damn that Justice Roberts and his partisan judicial activism!

Yes, we realize that we have a twisted sense of humor, but some days you have to take your schadenfreude where you can find it.

Posted by Cassandra at June 28, 2012 12:31 PM

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Comments

Ok. It's a tax. Got it. Thank you.
But, hey! Our representatives didn't vote on a new tax, or a tax increase. Do you think that they would have voted the way they did if they knew it was a new tax??? Why, they've been bamboozled! I think it appropriate that the bill be returned to Congress and our representatives allowed to vote up or down on this new tax! That way, our representatives can be rightful proud of their handiwork!

Posted by: It's a Desert Topping! at June 28, 2012 01:00 PM

If you do not pay any federal taxes in the current tax code, but actually get a check from the IRS, and you don't purchase healthcare, will X.XXX.00 dollars be deducted from your annual check?
I didn't think so.

Posted by: tomg51 at June 28, 2012 01:15 PM

I'm guessing that anyone who doesn't pay taxes and gets money from the IRS would be exempt from the penalty. There's an exemption for people who "can't afford it":

Beginning January 1, 2014, all U.S. residents are required to maintain minimum essential
coverage unless the individual falls into one of the following exceptions:
 individuals with a religious conscience exemption (applies only to certain faiths);
 incarcerated individuals;
 undocumented aliens;
individuals who cannot afford coverage (i.e. required contribution exceeds 8% of
household income);

 individuals with a coverage gap of less than 3 months;
individuals in a hardship situation (as defined by the Secretary of Dept. of Health &
Human Services (HHS));

 individuals with income below the tax filing threshold; and
 members of Indian tribes.

Surpriiiiiise, surprise surprise!

Posted by: Pvt. Gomer Pyle - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at June 28, 2012 01:43 PM

Dear Mr. Dessert Topping:

There's actually some evidence that Congress very well knew it was a tax:

In the most contentious exchange of President Barack Obama’s marathon of five Sunday shows, he said it is “not true” that a requirement for individuals to get health insurance under a key reform plan now being debated amounts to a tax increase.
But he could look it up — in the bill.

Page 29, sentence one of the bill introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) says: “The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax.”

And the rest of the bill is clear that the Finance Committee does, in fact, consider it a tax: “The excise tax would be assessed through the tax code and applied as an additional amount of Federal tax owed.”

The bill requires every American, with few exceptions, to carry health insurance. To enforce this individual mandate, the Senate Finance Committee created the excise tax as a penalty for people who don’t have insurance – and it can run as much as $3,800 a year per family.

The House bill also refers to the penalties for not carrying insurance as a tax. It calls for a “tax on individuals without acceptable health care coverage” and amends the tax code to implement it.

****************

Ah hate to say "I toad you so...." :)

Posted by: Cass at June 28, 2012 01:46 PM

On a principled basis, I hate that Obamacare was upheld. But on an individual basis it's good for me. I currently pay about $10,000 a year for health insurance. I have a boatload of pre-existing conditions, none of which are costing me much money these days but all of which could flare up at any moment. If I understand the law correctly, I will be able to drop my health insurance; pay the fine, er, tax (which presumably will be less than $10,000 per year); and - should one of my pre-existing conditions awake from its slumber - I can simply buy health insurance at that point. I wonder how many other people in my situation will do the same.

Of course, as Althouse points out, the fine, er, tax goes to the Feds, not the insurance company. So there's a good chance that if I do need to buy health insurance, there won't be any insurance companies left from which to buy it. I like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy so I'd like to suspect that's a feature not a bug, but I don't think the left understands economics well enough to set that up - and I know darn well Obama doesn't.

Posted by: Elise at June 28, 2012 02:52 PM

This is what I texted to my best friend earlier this morning:

We are no longer a free people, free to make our own decisions without coersion from the federal govt..."

Can anyone tell me I'm wrong on that? This wasn't about health care or health insurance. The government is now free to tax us for *ANYTHING* we do (or don't do) that goes against what they think is best for us. This goes way beyond the "nanny state", IMO.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 28, 2012 02:55 PM

Elise~

Listening to Rush today, he points out that the fi.. er, tax, is less than the cost of a policy on the front end of implementation, but after some number or years (3 or 4? I can't remember what he said), likely after all the insurance companies have gone out of business, the fi... er, tax, rises to be much more, after it is much to late to actually be able to buy private health care insurance.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 28, 2012 02:59 PM

A tax by any other name (to misquote the Bard) is still a tax. I don't care if you call it a fee, a surcharge, or whatever other name you can come up with for putting an unfunded mandate into practice, but it is still a tax.

We aren't living under the checks and balances of common law, only the rapacious greed of commercial law.

Posted by: Carolyn at June 28, 2012 03:10 PM

What worries me is those who are employed who are the younger teens and 20-somethings...and do not want to get health care coverage at their jobs because of the rapacious cost. They can be fired at will or have the tax withheld from their pay.

Posted by: MadMamaBear at June 28, 2012 03:15 PM

Ah hate to say "I toad you so...." :)

No, you don't. But let's be honest, who could have possibly forecast that the ACA's "penalty" is really an excise tax, but also not really an excise tax, at least as far as the Anti-Injunction Act is concerned? Moreover, who could have predicted that a new tax levied on uninsured people would be so wildly popular with those same uninsured people? I mean, this isn't just a home run for Team Obama, it's a home run and touchdown, and a three-pointer! On skates!

Posted by: It's Desert Topping-esque!!! at June 28, 2012 03:21 PM

likely after all the insurance companies have gone out of business, the fi... er, tax, rises to be much more, after it is much to late to actually be able to buy private health care insurance.

That's one scenario. The other is that the tax stays pretty much the same and the government (which is now presumably providing all health care or insurance) cuts cost by cutting payments to doctors, hospitals, etc (resulting in rationing via scarcity) or cut costs by limiting what is covered or both.

In other words, everyone ends up in Medicare and the independent review board runs the world of healthcare. Oh, and I'm pretty sure the separate, clearly marked fine/tax for health insurance will go away - it will all just become one big ball of tax, er, wax.

Posted by: Elise at June 28, 2012 04:34 PM

For those of you who were wondering what the Anti-Injunction act is (God help me, I Googled it), this link may be helpful:

http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/sometimes-labels-matter-why-the-anti-injunction-act-didnt-preclude-judicial-consideration-of-the-individual-mandate/

This, however, (unlike the AIA, which made my poor head explode) made me laugh:

...who could have predicted that a new tax levied on uninsured people would be so wildly popular with those same uninsured people?

The power of framing - if a conservathug had done this, he'd be picking on poor folk but luckily we all know that it's impossible for progressives to oppress the proles.... and on those rare occasions where they do, it's for their own (the proles', not progressives') good :p

I am hip deep in alligators today, and so have not had time to read anything on today's decision.

Posted by: Cass at June 28, 2012 04:54 PM

 undocumented aliens;

Of course, since they're undocumented, and HHS has announced its unwillingness to cooperate, anyway, it'll be impossible to determine their alien status. So they'll have to participate....

 individuals with a religious conscience exemption (applies only to certain faiths)

Where's a priest when you need one?

 members of Indian tribes

Never mind. I'm 1/32d of...of...some tribe or other. Because my evil white ancestors must have had...congress...with someone of native origin....

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at June 28, 2012 05:54 PM

... since they're undocumented, and HHS has announced its unwillingness to cooperate, anyway, it'll be impossible to determine their alien status. So they'll have to participate....

This works on roughly the same principle as trying to prevent voter fraud from occurring: if you won't allow anyone to check IDs or purge dead voters from the rolls (assuming you can get that info from the feds), there's no evidence that voter fraud ever happens!

Posted by: Move Along - Nothing2See at June 28, 2012 06:00 PM

Well, I can tell you that the wild-eyed progressives over at FireDogLake are as hopping mad about the individual mandate as we are. They hate that the cost is borne by the same people too strapped to be able to afford insurance, and also that the government is forcing them to buy insurance from evil for-profit insurance companies, who hatefully withhold medical care instead of redistributing their wealth to the deserving poor, just to atone in tiny part for the inexpiable sin of being rich. They fantasized that the law would be struck down and immediately replaced by the single-payer system they wanted in the first place.

I think the AIA just says, basically, that if the law is a tax, you can't sue to enjoin it until the tax begins to be collected, so the proponents of Obamacare hoped to be able to put off any constitutional challenge until tWAY after the 2012 elections. The Court found that, for purposes of things drafted by Congress, like the AIA and Obamacare, it was appropriate to construe the words literally and refuse to call the mandate a tax. But Congress has no such power to bind the meaning of the words of the Constitution, so in the context of the Commerce Clause, the Court was obligated to consider the real function of the mandate, which was a tax.

But will it be a floor wax or a dessert topping when the Court considers that a revenue bill must be originated in the House, whereas this monstrosity originated (sort of) in the Senate?

Posted by: Texan99 at June 28, 2012 11:57 PM

Texan99,
STOP MAKING SENSE AND UTTERING WORDS OF WISDOM!

Posted by: Carolyn at June 29, 2012 10:36 AM

Well, I can tell you that the wild-eyed progressives over at FireDogLake are as hopping mad about the individual mandate as we are. They hate that the cost is borne by the same people too strapped to be able to afford insurance, and also that the government is forcing them to buy insurance from evil for-profit insurance companies, who hatefully withhold medical care instead of redistributing their wealth to the deserving poor, just to atone in tiny part for the inexpiable sin of being rich. They fantasized that the law would be struck down and immediately replaced by the single-payer system they wanted in the first place.

....hence the nightmares I was having last night :p

But will it be a floor wax or a dessert topping when the Court considers that a revenue bill must be originated in the House, whereas this monstrosity originated (sort of) in the Senate?

Hmmm.... perhaps Herr Dessert Topping will weigh in?

I am now officially distracted from my entrancing work with spreadsheets by visions of smart alecky commenters swathed in whipped cream. Egad.

/running for the barricades

Posted by: Cass at June 29, 2012 10:57 AM

If it's really a tax (as the Court said), then it's deductible.

I found an old item, during the first Obama campaign, where he said "I wouldn't force anyone to buy insurance":

Obama Opposed Individual Mandate

He said that nasty old Hillary wanted the mandate, and he thought it would be like making the homeless buy houses.

I think that one of the things the Court did was to pass the ball back to Congress. Roberts said that they weren't ruling on the good or badness of the law.

So now it's up to Congress to throw it out.

Posted by: ZZMike at July 2, 2012 03:45 AM

I think that one of the things the Court did was to pass the ball back to Congress.

Unfortunately, the Roberts opinion also stripped away the defense when it gave the ball to Congress. Now, in addition to taxing anything that moves, they can tax anything that doesn't move.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at July 2, 2012 09:14 AM

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