On Limbaugh's show, Palin fearmongered about "jail time as punishment" in Senate health care bill


On Rush Limbaugh's radio program, Sarah Palin baselessly claimed, "We don't know if those who choose not to purchase this government-mandated level of coverage will face jail time as punishment," advancing the false conservative talking point that under health care reform, the uninsured will face jail time. In fact, neither of the bills that have been approved by committees in the Senate contain "jail time as punishment"; indeed, one of them specifically prohibits "criminal prosecution."

Palin asserts "jail time" for the uninsured is possible in health care reform

Palin: "We don't know if those who choose not to purchase this government-mandated level of coverage will face jail time." On the November 17 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh asked Palin, "What are your thoughts on the congressional health care reform bills going through the House and the Senate?" She responded:

PALIN: Well, we don't really know, do we, what's in that Senate version, the Senate consideration? It will be soon. But we have no idea of costs. We don't know how many will be insured. We're waiting to hear all that. We don't know if the tax funding of abortions will be in this new version that's sitting over on the Senate side. We don't know if those who choose not to purchase this government-mandated level of coverage will face jail time as punishment. There are so many questions unanswered.

I don't like the idea, in general, of the federal government thinking it needs to take over health care -- which essentially this is -- and control one-sixth of our economy. Not when there are commonsense solutions to meeting health care challenges in our country, like allowing the intra- and interstate competition with insurers, tort reform, cutting down on the waste and fraud that the Obama administration insists if we just did that we'll pay for this one-point-some trillion-dollar health care reform package.

So, lots of commonsense solutions that need to be plugged in before ever considering federal government taking it over. [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/17/09]

Neither health care reform bill under consideration in the Senate includes "jail time" as punishment for not purchasing insurance

Senate Finance Committee bill provides a tax as a penalty for lacking health insurance, but prohibits prosecution or "any other penalty." The bill, which the committee passed on October 19, states:

(a) REQUIREMENT TO MAINTAIN ESSENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS COVERAGE. -- If an individual is an applicable individual for any month beginning after June 30, 2013, the individual is required to be covered by essential health benefits coverage for such month.


(1) IN GENERAL. -- If an applicable individual fails to meet the requirement of subsection (a) for 1 or more months during any calendar year beginning after 2013, then, except as provided in subsection (d), there is hereby imposed a tax with respect to the individual in the amount determined under subsection (c).

The bill goes on to specify:

(1) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL PENALTIES AND INTEREST. -- In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any tax imposed by this section --

(A) such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure, and

(B) no penalty, addition to tax, or interest shall be imposed with respect to such failure or such tax.

Senate Finance Committee bill includes finanicial hardship exemptions from tax penalty. From the America's Healthy Future Act:

(e) Exemptions From Tax -- No tax shall be imposed under subsection (a) with respect to --



(A) IN GENERAL -- Any applicable individual if the applicable individual's required contribution for a calendar year exceeds 8 percent of such individual's household income for the second taxable year preceding the taxable year described in subsection (b)(2). For purposes of applying this subparagraph, the taxpayer's household income shall be increased by any exclusion from gross income for any portion of the required contribution made through a salary reduction arrangement.

Senate HELP bill penalty for failure to carry coverage is tax, not jail time. From the bill, which the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed on September 17:


(a) Requirement -- Every individual shall ensure that such individual, and each dependent of such individual, is covered under qualifying coverage at all times during the taxable year.

(b) Payment --

(A) IN GENERAL. -- In the case of any individual who did not have in effect qualifying coverage (as defined in section 3116 of the Public Health Service Act) for any month during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed for the taxable year, in addition to any other amount imposed by this subtitle, an amount equal to the amount established under paragraph (2).

Penalties for failure to pay taxes not unique to health care legislation

Conservatives have previously fearmongered about "jail time." As Media Matters for America noted when right-wing blogs seized on a false question from a reporter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the House's health care reform legislation, willful failure to pay income tax can result in civil or criminal penalties. But as the Joint Committee on Taxation noted in a November 5 letter: "Of the 666 convictions reported above for fiscal year 2008, fewer than 100 were convictions for willful failure to file or pay taxes under section 7203."

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Premiere Radio Networks
Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin
The Rush Limbaugh Show
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