September 26, 2009

In Writing: Under ObamaCare, If You Don’t Buy Health Insurance, You Could Go To Jail

Filed under: Health Care,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:08 am

chicago-mls-jailThursday afternoon, at its Live Pulse Blog (“Breaking News on the Health Care Fight”), Politico’s Carrie Burdoff Brown reported the following:

Flout the mandate penalty? Face the IRS

Americans who fail to pay the penalty for not buying insurance would face legal action from the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The remarks Thursday from the committee’s chief of staff, Thomas Barthold, seems to further weaken President Barack Obama’s contention last week that the individual mandate penalty, which could go as high as $1,900, is not a tax increase.

Under questioning from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Barthold said the IRS would “take you to court and undertake normal collection proceedings.”

Ensign pursued the line of questioning because he said a lot of Americans don’t believe the Constitution allows the government to mandate the purchase of insurance.

Friday, Brown reported that Ensign got a clarification on what the result of “normal collection proceedings” might be, and got it in writing (HT Hot Air):

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it “Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold.”

What follows is a picture of Barthold’s actual note. The original at Politico is here. The content is unchanged; I removed some empty space and adjusted the graphic’s properties to make the text more readable (and to have something in case Politico takes the original down):


The postscript in Barthold’s note is not in the text of Politico’s report. Though it’s not particularly legible, it says that “Felony tax evasion provides for restitution and a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual and up to five years in jail.”


B-b-b-but Barack Obama told ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that that these fines aren’t taxes, and even ridiculed him for looking up the definition of the word in the dictionary (bolds are mine):

STEPHANOPOULOS: …during the campaign. Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?

…. OBAMA: No. That’s not true, George. The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.

People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I’m not covering all the costs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it may be fair, it may be good public policy…

OBAMA: No, but — but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase. Any…

…. STEPHANOPOULOS: I — I don’t think I’m making it up. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: Tax — “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition. I mean what…

…. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to check for myself. But your critics say it is a tax increase.

OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy. You know that.

Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we’re going to have an individual mandate or not, but…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you reject that it’s a tax increase?

OBAMA: I absolutely reject that notion.

Tom Barthold must not have gotten the memo (or is it diktat?).

If you don’t think we have a problem of Orwellian proportions with Barack Obama, I’d suggest you re-read the excerpt. He thinks he’s above the dictionary, that words mean only what he says they mean.

In case you’re wondering, I have found no evidence that the establishment media has noted the Ensign-Barthold development. The only inkling of interest in Google News searches here and here on “Ensign Barthold jail” (not entered with quotes; one link is to the original result, and the other is to the detail of “all 7 news articles” link at the original) is one Atlanta Journal Constitution item. But it turns out that it’s an off-topic blog comment and not any kind of reporting.

Meanwhile, the New York Times Prescriptions blog wonders whether or not the fines for not buying health insurance are set high enough.

(Image found at

Cross-posted at



  1. The other excuse I’ve heard for the forced purchase of health insurance is “well, we already force people to buy auto insurance, why not force them to buy life/health insurance?”

    Besides the fact that this ignores the reality that even in the state (if I remember correctly, it was Massachusetts) with the harshest fines for failure to have auto insurance 10% of car owners there *still* don’t have it, it’s akin to saying, “the government already uses it’s power to force people into buying car insurance, why not let them abuse their authority more?”

    Comment by zf — September 26, 2009 @ 2:27 am

  2. California is already making room for non-complying Americans since mandatory Obamacare charges won’t apply to illegals.

    Comment by Bestcelebrity — September 26, 2009 @ 2:56 am

  3. Also, I’m not sure I get the whole “forcing people to have car insurance is fairness” meme. Whether a person has auto insurance or not, if they hit your car and they are found at fault that have to pay anyway, the only difference being instead of punting some of their costs to a insurer, they bear the full brunt of the financial burden.

    Also, is it fair that the guy who has a car and only drives it on rural back roads to the farm where he works and back has to pay large insurance premiums when his chances of even meeting another car, let alone getting into an accident is infinitesimal?

    It just really annoys me when people justify unconstitutional, individual rights violating and heavy-handed government force in the name of ‘fairness’. It’s the royal road to tyranny.

    Comment by zf — September 26, 2009 @ 4:50 am

  4. [...] [...]

    Pingback by “The Penalty for Not Buying Insurance Under ObamaCare? Jail” and related posts - KuASha Organization — September 26, 2009 @ 7:59 am

  5. #1, the requirement to buy car insurance IS optional, the reason why it is: You have a choice whether to own a car or not. Driving is a privilege NOT a right. On the other hand, the requirement to buy health insurance is NOT a choice since you are not allowed to opt out of a behavior that would require it, that is being ALIVE.

    Furthermore, the entire focus on health insurance to pay your medical bills is a misdirection from the real purpose of ANY insurance. The purpose of insurance is to protect the insured against catastrophic financial loss, period, nothing more, nothing less. This is why wealthy people opt not to purchase health insurance, they can afford the medical bill for expensive treatments and in addition, they can afford any experimental treatment that an insurance company WILL NOT cover. If you as an individual have the ability to pay your medical bills without insurance, then you are not the one who is unfairly cost shifting your medical treatments onto the rest of us like the 13 million illegal aliens. When Obama lowered his figure by 33% to 30 million, he still was being disingenuous since the other 15 million were people who opted NOT to avail themselves of COBRA benefits from their employers for less than a year between jobs, the remaining two million are the genuine people who have pre-existing conditions that can not get coverage for expensive medical procedures they need.

    Why write a 1000+ page bill to contort the entire health care system for 2 million people? Why not just write a one page bill that says, health insurance companies may not deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and those who have pre-existing conditions must pay insurance premiums in arrears for the period (via a payment plan) they were not insured until the month they were diagnosed as having that condition. This would cover all the monthly gaps where they were uninsured. The uninsured person would then be free to choose if financially it would make sense to pay for the procedures out of pocket OR pay for the periods they were uninsured with the pre-existing condition. If he person is indigent, they are already covered by Medicaid. Problem solved.

    Comment by dscott — September 26, 2009 @ 9:34 am

  6. #1-#2-#4, you basically got to my points.

    You get car insurance to cover your obligations to others; what you do for yourself (collision) is optional unless you have a car loan, in which case it’s required so the lender will get paid if you wreck.

    With health insurance, it’s all about yourself (and family). Your lack of health insurance isn’t going to make anyone sick, while your lack of car insurance or being able to self-fund the costs to others of a serious accident could directly and seriously hurt someone else.

    The argument that a person’s lack of health insurance can cost “the system” money is true, but it doesn’t directly hurt any one person, and the fact that medical services cost as artificially much as they do is the government’s fault in the first place. But the cure is total BS. The young are going to be forced to buy insurance (or go to jail, along anyone else who refuses to play along) which they on average will utilize relatively little to subsidize everyone else — as if foisting FICA and Medicare taxes on them wasn’t enough already.

    Comment by TBlumer — September 26, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  7. That’s a bit going to the extremes, isn’t it? I mean if the rich people can afford to buy health care without any undue hesitation, it doesn’t mean all other people can do the same.

    Comment by gices — September 28, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  8. #7, or that they should be forced to under penalty of prison.

    Comment by TBlumer — September 28, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

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