Tea Party super-PAC FreedomWorks has created a petition protesting the implementation of the “shared responsibility tax,” or the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandatory fee that one must pay should they not obtain health care coverage.
The ACA requires that one pay the greater amount between “one percent of your household income that is above the tax return filing threshold for your filing status” or “your family’s flat dollar amount, which is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, limited to a maximum of $285.” Those required to pay the tax are only required to do so once a year. But FreedomWorks and conservatives are treating this once-a-year tax like organized-crime extortion.
FreedomWorks invokes the dystopian political and social landscape of 1984 when they accuse the title of the tax as being “Orwellian.” This is wrong. The Tea Party group is trying to portray this small, annual tax as an oppression imposed by the Inner Party of Oceania by way of the Ministry of Plenty.
The tax is much smaller than that and any fear that is invoked by it is unjustified. The government will not kick in your door should you forget to pay, and despite what FreedomWorks claims, the Internal Revenue Service is not issuing “threats” of the tax. The group further indicts the tax as a way of “Obama forcing YOU to pay more for other people problem’s, instead of promoting the personal responsibility that make America the strongest nation in the world (original emphasis).”
That, too, is wrong.
FreedomWorks believes that Americans shouldn’t be paying “for other people’s problems,” this case being health care coverage according to FreedomWorks. For years now, American taxpayers have been paying for health care for the uninsured. Families USA, a health care consumer advocacy group, released a study in 2009, before the ACA became law, that indicated that the average American family and employers paid an extra $1,017 a year in health care premiums to help pay for the uninsured.
In 2008, $42.7 billion worth of hospital bills went unpaid and were eventually shifted onto to premiums of insured Americans to compensate. This “hidden tax” caught the attention of state politicians and ones on Capitol Hill. Families USA conducted the study to bolster the argument favoring expanded health care coverage and reform.
“I don’t think anybody has any idea about how much they are paying because of the need to cover the health care costs of the uninsured,” said Ron Pollack, Families USA executive director. “This is a hidden tax on all insurance premiums, whether it’s paid by business for their work or by families when they purchase their own coverage.”
Instances like these gave the ACA debate some steam on the Congressional floors. It prompted top U.S. officials to get behind health care reform in an attempt to stabilize the health care insurance market. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) said “health care reform will lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs for American families, . . . and help keep the Medicare program sustainable for the next generation.”
And the ACA is working, so naturally the Tea Party and its supporting cronies will be scrambling to find anyway to attack. Already, 3 million to 4 million people have signed for the ACA which has greatly decreased the rate of uninsured Americans. According to the Gallup-Heathways Well-Being Index, the uninsured rate fell from 17.1 percent to 15.9 percent in only three months. The largest decreased occurred in homes that earned less than $36,000 a year.
FreedomWorks is out to demonize the very thing they claim to protest, taxes that “pay for other people’s problems,” as they say. The ACA imposes a tax, which the IRS notified Americans about, that would be a fraction of the “hidden tax” which caught policyholders off guard and was imposed by insurance companies.
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.