During a recent floor debate, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor warned of dire consequences from the IRS implementing portions of Obamacare and collecting taxes to help pay for the health care reforms.
"The IRS will have access to the American people’s protected health care information," Cantor, R-7th, said Aug. 2.
He expressed distrust of the IRS, referring to disclosures earlier this year that the agency gave special scrutiny to the Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax exemptions. Giving the IRS access to personal medical records "is nothing short of an unwelcome big government overreach into the most personal aspect of our lives," Cantor said.
Shortly after his comments, the House, in a party-line vote, approved the "Keep the IRS off your Health Care Act" that would bar the IRS from any involvement in Obamacare. The measure, like 39 other House-approved bills that would end or dismantle the health care act, is expected to die in the Senate.
Cantor made a similar statement during a July 27 broadcast, saying, "The doctor’s office is the last place anyone would want to find the IRS. Your health care information is private and should remain so."
We wondered whether Obamacare really would give the IRS access to records of our illnesses, surgeries and prescriptions.
We asked Cantor’s office for proof. His spokesman, Rory Cooper, cited a June 18 article in the conservative Breitbart.com about a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Starting in January, Obamacare will require people who can afford health insurance to buy coverage or pay a tax penalty. Many who are now uninsured are expected to buy policies through insurance exchanges that are being set up. The rule requires private companies participating in the exchanges to submit information about new customers to HHS so the agency can assure that these people have bought at least the minimum levels of coverage required by Obamacare and verify those receiving federal assistance buying their policies fall into qualifying income categories.
The Breitbart article discusses concerns by some conservative organizations and publications that HHS might share that information with the IRS. But the story stops short of Cantor’s claim that the IRS will have access to the data.
HHS officials repeatedly have said they will not be seeking intimate details from medical histories and guaranteed the department will not share the information with the IRS, as reported by this spring by our colleagues at PolitiFact National and FactCheck.org.
Again, it should be noted that the data will not be collected on everyone, just those who buy coverage through exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 26 million people living in the U.S. in 2020 -- less than 8 percent of population -- will be insured by the exchanges.
Twice since May, IRS officials have testified at House hearings that they will not have access to private medical records. The agency’s website states, "Nothing in (Obamacare) allows the IRS to access individual’s health information, including information about individuals’ health status and any health care services received."
The IRS will share tax information to help HHS determine whether low-income families and individuals qualify for assistance in purchasing insurance. A computer system is being developed that will give HHS instant access to that information. But it will be a one-way system, and the IRS will not be able to view HHS records.
So how will the IRS identify uninsured Americans who must pay Obamacare’s penalty tax?
"Taxpayers will get a form at the end of every year from their insurer to use when they prepare their tax returns," then-IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller told a House subcommittee in September 2012. "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.
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."
Cantor said that under Obamacare, "the IRS will have access to the American people’s protected health care information." But he offers no hard proof, just speculation on a blog.
The IRS will play a major role in Obamacare by collecting a variety of taxes that will help support the program. But contrary to Cantor’s claim, IRS officials have repeatedly testified before Congress that they will not have access to the intimate details of anyone’s health records.
Cantor’s unfounded statement does nothing more than amp up public fear for his ongoing fight to repeal Obamacare. We rate it Pants on Fire.