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The IRS is now policing healthcare

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: IRS, healthcare, penalties

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(NaturalNews) Before the U.S. Supreme Court even decides whether or not the administration's healthcare reform law, known as Obamacare, is even constitutional, the White House is already gearing up the enforcement apparatus: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

According to The Hill, a Washington, D.C. newspaper that covers Congress, the Obama administration is "quietly" diverting a half-billion dollars to the IRS solely for the purposes of enforcing provisions of Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act.

The hated tax agency is responsible for the enforcement of several key portions of the law, including the controversial "individual mandate," which is the government's requirement that all Americans be forced to purchase health insurance. More than half of the states have sued the federal government over the mandate; the U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in the case and is expected to rule by June whether the mandate violates the Constitution.

Pushing ahead, burning through cash

The administration is not only trying to be sneaky about shifting enforcement funds to the IRS, it's doing so outside the normal appropriations process. Republican lawmakers in the House have tried to cut off enforcement funding - at least until the high court makes its ruling.

"While President Obama and his Senate allies continue to spend more tax dollars implementing an unpopular and unworkable law that may very well be struck down as unconstitutional in a matter of months, I'll continue to stand with the American people who want to repeal this law and replace it with something that will actually address the cost of healthcare," said Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee for healthcare.

But despite legal and political challenges, President Obama is pushing ahead.

Besides (mis)appropriating the $500 million to IRS, the administration has worked at a feverish pace to put key policies in place. "And, according to a review of budget documents and figures provided by congressional staff, the administration is also burning through implementation funding provided in the healthcare law," The Hill reported.

The law provides billions of dollars in taxpayer funding for a number of appropriations measures. Included is a $1 billion implementation fund for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which plans to burn through that by September - before the November election and a year before provisions of the law are set to go into effect, if it stands.

More money, more employees

The report said HHS has transferred $200 million to the IRS over the past two years and plans to transfer more than $300 million this year. The Government Accountability Office says the transfers are legal and consistent with how agencies have utilized general implementation funds in the past. That said, such significant monetary transfers to the IRS and other agencies leave less implementation funds for HHS. Moreover, the department will need to draw on that $1 billion for some of its own tasks - such as the law's requirement for HHS to establish a federal insurance exchange, where individuals and businesses may purchase coverage, in any state that does not establish its own. That portion of the law was unfunded, however, forcing HHS to rob Peter to pay Paul - stealing funds away from some of the department's other obligations.

And again - Obamacare may not even withstand constitutional scrutiny.

If it does, the IRS function in all of this gets even more ominous. During the debate over the healthcare legislation in 2010, critics charged the measure called for hiring hundreds of new IRS agents who would ultimately be tasked with throwing people in jail who did not purchase health insurance.

In addition, in anticipation of having to enforce other provisions of the law and collect a host of taxes it will raise, the agency wants to hire more than 300 new employees next year, just to cover those changes. The agency also asked Congress to fund hiring an additional 537 employees to "administer the most expensive piece of the new law -- subsidies to help low-income people pay for insurance, which are structured as tax credits," the paper said.

All hail, The Leviathan that giveth and, ultimately, taketh away.

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