IRS role in Obamacare adds deeper layer to controversy over targeting conservatives

Published: Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:11 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks on the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for extra tax scrutiny in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday May 15, 2013. Obama announced the resignation of Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, the top official at the IRS.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

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With the IRS under fire for targeting conservative nonprofits, scrutiny of the agency's role in implementing Obamacare has ratcheted up, especially given that the administrator who was in charge of nonprofits groups is now in charge of Obamacare.

That would be Sarah Hall Ingram, commissioner of the Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division from 2009 to 2012 and now head of the Affordable Care Act division.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the IRS is charged with determining eligibility for subsidies, based on personal income. The agency also determines who must buy insurance or pay a penalty.

"Republicans had already tried to tie the IRS scandal to the health care law," noted a report in The Hill, "simply by virtue of the fact that the IRS is responsible for a huge amount of the law's most significant provisions. A more direct connection to the Tea Party scandal, though, could inflame GOP criticism."

The pushback from conservative politicians and media commentators is about what you would expect.

"Now Ingram is running the IRS' Obamacare enforcement office," wrote Investors Business Daily in an editorial, "and if you think the IRS' 'extra scrutiny' of conservative, pro-life and pro-Israel groups is scary, think of the IRS having access to your private medical information."

“When people realize that their most personal, sensitive, intimate, private health care information is in the hands of the IRS that's been willing to use people's tax information against political opponents of this administration, then people have pause and they pull back in horror,” said Rep. Michelle Bachmann, chair of the congressional Tea Party Caucus.

And Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has introduced the “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013,” which ABC reports “would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury, or any delegate, including the IRS, from enforcing the Affordable Care Act.”

“Now more than ever, we need to prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans’ health care,” Cornyn said. “I do not support Obamacare, and after the events of last week, I cannot support giving the IRS any more responsibility or taxpayer dollars to implement a broken law.”

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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