Conservatives are apparently in full whine over what they're calling a new tax coming out of the SCOTUS health care decision this AM.
As we now know, the SCOTUS declared that a penalty for refusing to purchase health insurance is permissible as a tax, in essence, approving the mandate by another name. Predictably, that wording has led to silliness of this sort:
Grover Norquist: "Now that we recognize that the mandate is only constitutional because it is a tax, it's now clear that 'Obamacare' is all about taxes and it hits everybody, not just rich people."
Sarah Palin: "Obama lied to the American people. Again," tweeted Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. "He said it wasn't a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies."
Gov. Romney: "Obamacare raises taxes on the American people..." [this one's unbearably ironic given that RomneyCare in MA has a mandate penalty as well... I know... whatever]
As my 12-year old would say: Really?? Seriously??!!
First of all, we're talking personal responsibility here. If you don't have insurance and you get treatment for your illness, that's uncompensated care, which I'll pay for. And that is a tax you're imposing on me and the other 84% of insured Americans. I thought conservatives were all about personal responsibility.
The vast majority of Americans will never have to pay a penalty. The law anticipates that most people will have access to affordable health care through an employer, the Exchange or a public program and will take advantage of the opportunity to obtain or maintain such coverage. In addition, there are three key exceptions to the penalty:
- Those who are uninsured because their coverage is unaffordable
- Those who are uninsured and do not file taxes because their incomes are too low
- Those who would encounter "hardship" by paying the penalty"
Third, note that the anti-tax shouters are conveniently ignoring all the tax benefits in the ACA, like the credits to help people buy insurance. According to CBO, they outpace the penalties by more than a factor of 10 ($686 billion versus $55 billion)!
In essence, Norquist/Palin et al are advocating for a tiny group of free riders to impose higher insurance premiums on the rest of us, while ignoring billions of tax benefits in the ACA -- which remains, I'm very happy to say: the law of the land!
Is it too much to ask these guys and gals to suck it up, recognize that the ACA is the legitimate health care reform program passed by a democratically elected government, and stop trying to block it?
OK, that's a rhetorical question. But I still think it's a good one.
This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.