IRS Scandal, Higher Premiums Cast Doubts on Obamacare

Saturday, 18 May 2013 12:18 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Higher-than-expected premiums, combined with the scandal-ridden IRS, are putting a shadow over Obamacare, with House Republicans vowing to keep up the fight against President Barack Obama's key agenda item.    

On Thursday, the House voted once again to repeal Obamacare. This time around, two Democrats, Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.)., sided with Republicans on the vote. All GOP members voted to repeal the health care issue.

In Saturday's weekly GOP address, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris vowed his party will keep up the fight, discussing a report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that detailed how insurance premiums will increase for many people under Obamacare, not lower them as promised.

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“According to new data from the nation’s insurers, under ObamaCare, premiums in the individual market will skyrocket by an average of double what we pay now, with some rates rising by more than 400 percent," said Harris. The report said people in about 45 states may see premiums jump by about 100 percent, according to statistics from 17 insurance companies.

In addition to the higher premiums, Harris Saturday claimed Obamacare will be mismanaged by the Internal Revenue Service, The Hill reports.

The IRS has confirmed that it gave conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status extra scrutiny, and Republicans are trying to determine if the Obama administration was involved in the scandal.

“Now, just think about the fact that it’s the IRS that will be responsible for enforcing many of these regulations,” Harris said. “If we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that the IRS needs less power, not more.”

In addition, it was learned this past week that Sarah Hall Ingram, who was named as the director of the Affordable Care Act's office in the IRS, had been in charge of the office in the IRS that works on applications from tax-exempt groups. Harris said that Ingram's involvement also casts a shadow over Obamacare.

Ingram was in charge of the tax-exempt division from 2009 to 2012, overlapping with the time when targeting first began. She began overseeing the health law implementation in December 2010, six months before her subordinate found out about the profiling.

Her successor in the tax-exempt division, Joseph Grant, said he plans to retire on June 3, just as Congressional hearings are getting under way, and earlier this week, the fallout over the IRS scandal lead to the ouster of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller.

But the Ingram connection is shaping up to be a key part of the Republicans' fight to repeal Obamacare.

"As a matter of fact, it turns out that the IRS official who oversaw the operation that’s under scrutiny for targeting conservatives is now in charge of the IRS’s ObamaCare office,” said Harris. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

While the IRS won't be administering the healthcare exchanges that are key to Obamacare, it is to charge fines against people who do not obtain health insurance, after the Supreme Court ruled that imposing fines for lack of health coverage is allowed when doing so is considered a tax.

As a result, the IRS is involved with four major parts of Obamacare, with the most major role to determine if individuals are entitled to new tax credits to help pay for private insurance premiums.

Other key Republicans, like Harris, are increasingly pointing out problems with Obamacare, mainly with the issue of the IRS' connection with the program.

Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, said she is very worried about the connection.

"Does this means that some government plutocrat can look at my personal healthcare data?" she asked. "Could I be denied healthcare? Could it be delayed?"

On the floor last week,Bachmann said she is worried that this "gargantuan government expansion known as Obamacare will allow bureaucrats access to our most intimate, personal health information. It will be a huge database that government is putting together and building right now. Under Obamacare, the average American will pay more, they'll get less, and now they have to worry that their government may punish them because of their beliefs."

While the law doesn't require the IRS to collect or view information about individuals' health, they reflect the doubts about the IRS and its potential to abuse its power, reports The Associated Press.

But Democrats are accusing Republicans of politicizing the IRS scandal to score political points.

"There really isn't a tie," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., who is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS. "This is another effort by the Republicans to essentially try to score political points."

Former Republican congressman Tom Davis, of Virginia, said Republicans should be looking for a connection, but should be careful about how far they take it.

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Obamacare, Davis told the Associated Press "is 50-50 with the public on a good day," said Davis. "You put that together with the IRS and it's combustible. For Republicans, I think they need to go a little slower and get some facts in."

There are further scandals that are giving Republicans further ammunition in their fight against the president's health care law. Harris noted that it could also be mismanaged by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has been soliciting private donations from businesses in order to encourage people to sign up for health care coverage.

Republicans claim her actions are illegal, because of federal laws preventing private donations from financing programs for which Congress has already refused funding.
However, HHS maintains her actions are legal, as the director is permitted to seek funding for health care issues.

"Of course, there are powerful interests who will do all they can to prop up Obamacare," said Harris. "The Secretary of Health and Human Services has been pushing private companies — businesses she herself regulates — to help pay for the implementation of Obamacare. This raises all kinds of legal and ethical questions."

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