Don’t Have Health Insurance? The IRS Might Contact You

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Uncle Sam wants you -- a little too much, according to a few congressmen.

Uncle Sam wants you — a little too much, according to a few congressmen.

Three Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service this week questioning the possibility that the federal government might use taxpayer information as part of a marketing effort for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

The letter is in response to a fact sheet published by a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in June. Titled “Strengthening the Marketplace by Covering Young Adults,” the fact sheet announces plans to “step up [Obamacare] Marketplace outreach, especially to young adults.”

One strategy involves targeting uninsured people who chose to pay the fee rather than purchase health insurance as required under the 2010 health care law.

The fact sheet says the Department of Health “will partner with IRS to conduct outreach to families that paid the fee or claimed an exemption for 2015. This will help us reach a group of individuals who were recently identified as uninsured.”

But three powerful members of the House are objecting to the plan, and have sent a letter to the IRS to express their concerns. The three congressmen who signed the letter are:

  • Kevin McCarthy (California), majority leader of the House
  • Steve Scalise (Louisiana), majority whip of the House
  • Kevin Brady (Texas), chairman of the House’s Committee on Ways and Means

The trio write in their letter to the IRS that such outreach “raises legal and privacy concerns,” stating that tax returns and tax return information are protected by law.

The letter continues:

“We do not believe it to be an appropriate tax administration activity, nor a good use of scarce taxpayer resources, to use protected return data to direct taxpayers on their personal coverage decisions.”

Their letter concludes with a request for details about the IRS’ role in the Obamacare marketing effort, to be provided by Oct. 4.

Another person who has publicly questioned the effort is Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a nonprofit focused on patient-centered health reform.

Turner wrote in Forbes this week:

“Health insurers have made it very clear to the White House that they need more healthy young people to enroll in the exchanges to stabilize the pools, which are too old and sick. People who paid the penalty are a ripe target. …

Will getting a dreaded letter from the IRS work with millennials? Or will it further anger them about the reach of ‘big brother’ into their lives and decisions?”

What do you think about the IRS plan to promote getting health insurance under Obamacare? Sound off below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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