An Individual Mandate That Isn't Mandatory

I’ve commented about this a lot on this site, and it’s something that a lot of people appear to be unaware of. Quite honestly, I’m not sure if any members of Congress are aware of it. I saw brief mention on a few blogs back in December when the Senate passed the bill. However, it seems to have been largely forgotten or overlooked.

We’ve all heard that the new measure requires individuals to buy what Congress calls “health insurance” or pay a penalty. However, I don’t think many people are aware of or have thought much about what would happen to someone who failed to do either.

Starting on page 336 of the bill, Section 5000A(g)(1) says:

IN GENERAL.—The penalty provided by this section shall be paid upon notice and demand by the Secretary, and except as provided in paragraph (2), shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as an assessable penalty under subchapter B of 23 chapter 68.

So, except “as provided in paragraph (2),” it’s treated like someone’s failure to pay regular income taxes. So what is provided in paragraph (2):

SPECIAL RULES.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law—
‘‘(A) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES.— In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
‘‘(B) LIMITATIONS ON LIENS AND LEVIES.—The Secretary shall not—
‘‘(i) file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or
‘‘(ii) levy on any such property with respect to such failure.

Did everyone get that? About the best they can do apparently is send you letters. That makes it quite easy for those who would prefer to not buy so-called “health insurance” until they need it or for those who, like me, simply object to being told to do it.

I wondered if perhaps we could not get this whole bill repealed if enough of us (every single opponent) simply refused to buy coverage or pay a penalty. It wouldn’t matter for those who had special medical needs that were covered and used more than they put in. However, I’m not sure that enough people are opposed enough to make the sacrifice; only a tiny percentage of objectors likely won’t make any difference to the “health insurance industry” or the ability of the bill to be implemented or willingness of Congress to continue it. Otherwise, it could perhaps be a means of defunding it and perhaps creating enough of a crisis to get it repealed.

On the downside, this would put an additional burden on those who wish to take this issue to court on claims of unconstitutionality. You are going to tell a judge that you don’t like getting letters from Kathleen Sebelius? Not that any court would find any problem if there were a real penalty, but this makes it beyond impossible.

So I’m happy to see as many people as possible, including employers, join me in a pledge to not buy or accept so-called “health insurance” coverage come 2014.