Filling in for Glenn Beck, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that under the House health care reform bill, the government could "even put you in jail" if you fail to purchase insurance.
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From the November 10 broadcast of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
NAPOLITANO: For the first time in American history, if this bill becomes law, the Feds will force you to buy insurance you might not want or may not need or cannot afford. If you don't purchase what the government tells you to buy, if you don't do so when they tell you to do it, if you don't buy just what they say is right for you, the government may fine you, prosecute you, and even put you in jail. Freedom of choice and control over your own body will be lost. The privacy of your communications and medical making decisions with your physician will be gone. More of your hard earned dollars will be at the disposal and tender mercies of federal bureaucrats. It was not intended to be this way.
Fact: Penalty for failure to purchase insurance is a tax, not jail time
As Media Matters for America has documented, Section 501 of the House health care bill provides that an individual must be "covered by acceptable coverage at all times." "Acceptable coverage" includes "qualified health benefits plan coverage," "grandfathered health insurance coverage," "Medicare," "Medicaid," coverage provided to members of the armed forces and their dependants, "coverage under the veteran's health care program," people who receive health care "through the Indian Health Service," or other coverage deemed acceptable by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If a person does not have acceptable health care coverage, Section 501 imposes a tax on that person "not to exceed the applicable national average premium":
Fact: Willful failure to pay taxes of any sort can result in civil or criminal penalties
A press release by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) relying on a letter from the Joint Committee on Taxation states that "Americans who do not maintain 'acceptable health insurance coverage' and who choose not to pay the bill's new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years." That section of the letter dealing with "civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance" specifies that Camp asked the committee to "discuss the situation in which the taxpayer has chosen not to comply with individual mandate and not to pay the additional tax." Thus, the letter is not discussing the penalties for failure to buy insurance, but the penalties for both failing to buy insurance and failing to pay the tax. The committee's letter explains that the tax code provides penalties to prevent tax evasion of any sort: "The Code provides for both civil and criminal penalties to ensure complete and accurate reporting of tax liability and to discourage fraudulent attempts to defeat or evade tax." [Joint Committee on Taxation letter, 11/5/09]