The Obama Administration Friday rejected Republican charges that the President's signature health insurance reform initiative amounted to a new tax on American families.
In upholding a constitutional challenge to the law, and in particular the section known as the "individual mandate" which requires Americans to purchase insurance or face a fine from the Internal Revenue Service, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Congress did have the power to regulate the failure to buy insurance.
However, because the Court ruled that the authority for the mandate lay not in the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution but in Congress' power to levy taxes, Republicans quickly seized on the decision to charge Obama with raising taxes through the health reform law.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters on Air Force One while Obama was en route to inspect fire-ravaged portions of Colorado, swiftly rejected that Republican charge Friday.
Carney repeatedly referred to the individual mandate as establishing a "penalty" for those who failed to buy health insurance on their own, noting that it would likely only fall on a very narrow portion of the population.
"For those who can afford health insurance but choose to remain uninsured, forcing the rest of us to pay for their care, a penalty is administered as part of the Affordable Care Act," Carney said. "You can call it what you want, but it is affecting 1 percent of the population, because most people either have health insurance or will do the responsible thing, and if they can afford health insurance they will purchase it."
He added, "Those who cannot afford it, as you know, will benefit from the generous credits and subsidies that exist in the Affordable Care Act as a part of the expansion of coverage to 30 million Americans."
When pressed by reporters on the question of whether the mandate was still a tax, even if it struck only a narrow segment of the population, Carney again rejected the assertion.
"It's a penalty because you have a choice. You don't have a choice to pay your taxes," he said. "So if you don't buy it, and you can afford it, it is an irresponsible thing to do to ask the rest of America's taxpayers to pay for your care when you go to the emergency room."
He added, "So your choice is to purchase health care reform or a penalty will be administered."
Carney also sought to undermine Republican opposition to the mandate by noting, as President Obama did Thursday, that the provision was originally a Republican idea and had been enacted under then-Governor Mitt Romney, now the presumptive GOP nominee to challenge Obama in November.
"That affects, by CBO [Congressional Budget Office] estimates, 1 percent of the population," Carney said. "And it is modeled very closely after the provision in the health care reform law that Governor Romney signed when he was in Massachusetts."
He added, "It's important to remember that this was a reform to our health care system that was modeled after conservative proposals originating in conservative think tanks in the Republican Party, and build on, deliberately, our free market, private insurance system."
by RTT Staff Writer
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