POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Massachusetts Official Refutes Latest GOP Health Care Attacks

The hot new Republican hit on health care reform legislation came in the form of a press release from Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich).

Under Democratic-authored health care reform, Camp insisted, if people defied the individual mandate and refused to purchase insurance, they could potentially be imprisoned for up to five years. The charge was picked up by a host of fellow Republican lawmakers during speeches on the floor and was played up by conservative media.

The problem is, there's simply no evidence that it's true. In fact, just the opposite.

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office noted in a press release of its own, only people "truly capable" of purchasing health insurance (i.e., not lower-income Americans and those facing financial hardship) would face fees for not buying it. The penalty would be enforced (or issue litigated) in civil court, much like the majority of cases that deal with tax policy and the IRS.

If Republicans don't believe Pelosi, they could look at the reforms instituted by one of their own.

Under Massachusetts' health care policy, implemented by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the state also has an individual mandate for insurance coverage -- and not one individual has been arrested for not purchasing insurance since the reforms were implemented, an official says.

"Absolutely not one single person," said Celia Wcislo, who serves on the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Board, when asked how many people have suffered such a fate.