A Republican President's Executive Order Could Undermine Obamacare

This post was originally published on this site

January 5, 2016

A Republican President’s Executive Order Could Undermine Obamacare

Even with a GOP president in 2017, Republicans might still be unable to repeal Obamacare if they can’t get the legislation through the Senate.

But take heart, conservatives, there is still a way a Republican president could neuter much of President Obama’s “signature legislation” by using one of the president’s own tactics—an executive order.

The Affordable Care Act mandates people have Obamacare-qualified health coverage or pay a penalty.

The problem many uninsured face is that Obamacare premiums are very high, even for many of those who qualify for a subsidy. And if individuals choose one of the least expensive plans to minimize their premium costs, they could be looking at both high premiums and a deductible (for non-preventive care services) well over $6,000, which they have to pay out of their own pocket before insurance kicks in.

The result, as many of us predicted and the New York Times is learning, is that millions of taxpayers are choosing to go uninsured. In 2014 about 7.5 million chose to pay the penalty, which averaged about $200, rather than buy coverage, while another 12 million received an exemption from having to pay the fine,according to the IRS.

But the penalty went up in 2015 and is going up even higher in 2016, to $695 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater.

The IRS can only enforce the penalty by taking it from individuals’ tax refunds. But what if a Republican president, following Obama’s lead, were to issue an executive order requiring the agency to “prioritize” its enforcement efforts—much as Obama instructed the Justice Department to prioritize deportation efforts.

That order would allow the IRS to use its limited resources—Republicans have cut the IRS’s budget by $1 billion over the last five years, which apparently has led to 13,000 job cuts—to go after real tax-evading criminals rather than the uninsured.

And without the penalty, the mandate to have coverage is moot. People who aren’t getting a subsidy could buy whatever type of insurance they wanted—or no insurance at all. A whole new market with affordable policies would emerge.

And Democrats wouldn’t object, right? Because an executive order requiring the IRS to go after the “worst offenders,” to use the Justice Department’s language with respect to deportations, would just be taking a page out of the Obama playbook.

Okay, Democrats probably would object, but that would make them hypocrites.

And you have to wonder how many Democrats want to publicly demand that the IRS be allowed to penalize millions of Americans?

Of course, an executive order isn’t the best way to topple Obamacare, and it would still leave large sections of the legislation unaffected.

Repealing Obamacare would be the best option. Or Congress could also pass legislation ending the IRS’s role enforcing the penalty.

Governing by executive order is a terrible way to run a government. But Obama has used that tactic so many times that it will be very hard for future presidents to reject it when an executive order could be used effectively.

And at least one good use of that option would be to undermine the IRS’s ability to penalize the uninsured.

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