Lawrence O’Donnell says the IRS cannot pursue ‘either civil or criminal remedies’ for people who don’t purchase health insurance
With the federal government’s online insurance marketplace floundering in its first month, some political pundits are calling for a delay of the hot-button provision requiring most people to pay a tax penalty if they don’t have health insurance.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell is not one of them. Ever since the law passed, he has told his viewers to not fear the individual mandate. He said it again on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on Oct. 21, 2013 while scolding a White House correspondent.
“No one ever really has to pay the fine in the individual mandate,” O’Donnell said, “because the IRS has been specifically forbidden, in writing, in law, in the Affordable Care Act, from ever actually pursuing either civil or criminal remedies to collect those fines from anyone. The individual mandate is the only provision in the tax code that was written deliberately to be essentially unenforceable.”
Don’t believe him? On air, O’Donnell pointed to page 131 of the law, which more or less states exactly what he said about IRS enforcement, or lack thereof, of the mandate. (He actually read the key sections aloud.)
In 2014, uninsured taxpayers will pay a pro-rated fine of either 1 percent of annual income or $95, whichever is greater. It goes up each year, and there are more costs for uninsured dependents. There are some exemptions for religious beliefs, prisoners, Indian tribes, certain low incomes and undocumented immigrants.
The final bill President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010 included two requirements that essentially yanked out the agency’s teeth in enforcing the mandate penalty. The IRS cannot pursue criminal charges against someone who does not pay the penalty and is supposed to. The agency also cannot file a notice of lien or seize property.