Fox continued its effort to target the Obama administration with manufactured scandals, fearmongering that IRS commissioner Sarah Hall Ingram will use the IRS' authority under the Affordable Care Act to discriminate against conservatives by denying or postponing approval for medical procedures.
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IRS Commissioner Who Oversaw Tax-Exemption Approvals Now Heads Healthcare Office
ABC News: "IRS Official In Charge During Tea Party Targeting Now Runs Health Care Office." In a May 16 report headlined "IRS Official in Charge During Tea Party Targeting Now Runs Health Care Office," ABC News reported that Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS commissioner previously in charge of the office that oversaw the approval of tax-exempt organizations had been moved to an IRS office in charge of some aspects of the new health care legislation:
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.
Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS' Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today. [ABC News, 5/16/13]
Fox Fearmongers That Health Care Reform Gives The IRS Power To Discriminate Against Conservatives
Fox News' Steve Doocy Suggests The IRS Could Use Health Records To Interfere With Conservatives' Healthcare. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy suggested that the IRS would be able to access Americans' private health information and meddle in specific health procedures:
DOOCY: Well, this is a little scary. Just think about the nexus of IRS with healthcare and the fact that she -- keep in mind, one of the things from the IG report was, one of the problems with the IRS, was they blamed ineffective management. Well, she was the management, and now she's running Obamacare at the IRS? Going forward, just imagine: okay, so you go in and you're, you're trying to get a doctor's appointment; right? And they go, we see from your tax records -- how would that possibly be possible? -- We see from your tax records that you support the Tea Party or conservative groups. You want a doctor's visit? Three weeks. You want hip replacement? Four years.
Fox displayed this graphic during the segment:
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/17/13]
In Fact, The IRS Will Only Have Power To Verify Health Coverage
Politico: "The Agency Will Verify Insurance Coverage, But Nothing More." A May 16 Politico article disputed the suggestion that the IRS would have the power to stand between conservatives and their doctors, quoting former IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller who explained during a September 2012 House hearing that the insurers will only provide insurance coverage information to the IRS:
In reality, the IRS is just supposed to verify that people have health coverage -- which means collecting records from employers and insurers, but not doctors.
And in September, then-IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller testified at a House hearing that the agency will verify insurance coverage, but nothing more. "It is important to note that the information that insurers provide to the IRS will show the fact of insurance coverage, and will not include any personal health information," he said in his prepared testimony. [Politico, 5/16/13]
Reuters: IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller Testified Agency Will Not Audit Health Coverage. A September 11, 2012 Reuters article reported then-IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller clarification of the agency's role in implementing the Affordable Care act to a subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, pointing out that "[i]n most cases, taxpayers will file their tax returns reporting their health insurance coverage, and-or making a payment, and there will be no need for further interactions with the IRS":
The Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday assured congressional lawmakers that agents would play no role in enforcing the controversial requirement that Americans buy insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul.
"IRS revenue agents will not be involved. There will not be audits," IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller told a subcommittee of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
"In most cases, taxpayers will file their tax returns reporting their health insurance coverage, and-or making a payment, and there will be no need for further interactions with the IRS," Miller said. [Reuters, 9/11/12]
The New Republic: Idea That Obamacare Gives IRS Control Over Individuals' Health Care Is "Beyond Laughable." In a May 17 New Republic article, Jonathan Cohn called the idea that the Affordable Care Act would "meaningfully" expand the power of the IRS "beyond laughable." He highlighted the minor role that the agency would play in implementing the law and contrasted it with the agency's existing power:
[T]he notion that Obamacare meaningfully expands the power of the IRS, let alone that it will give its bureaucrats control over how people get medical care, is beyond laughable.
It's true that the IRS performs several of Obamacare's critical functions. Starting next year, the IRS will be distributing the tax credits that will make insurance affordable for millions of Americans. The IRS will also be responsible for enforcing the "personal responsibility requirement"--a.k.a., the individual mandate. To do that, it must figure out who has insurance, and then, under certain circumstances, impose a tax penalty on people who do not.
The medical privacy nightmare is a figment of the libertarian imagination. The IRS will never see an actual medical record, let alone meddle with decision-making by doctors and hospitals. The agency will deal entirely with financial matters--how much money you make and whether you have insurance.
[I]f you're worried about the IRS discriminating against individuals, selective application of a modest, non-enforceable tax penalty seems like a trivial matter given the other options the agency has at its disposal. After all, the IRS has the power to conduct audits, which can be brutal, and dial income tax penalties way up or down. [The New Republic, 5/17/13]