Obamacare Defunding and the Mandate

This is pure political fantasy. I will pretend to take Republicans seriously. They claim that Obamacare is unpopular (true) and tha the people want them to defund Obamacare. It is clear that the most unpopular part of Obamacare is the mandate (the Medicare entitlement reform which is included in House budget resolutions and of which they demand much more is also unpopula). The mandate is also the best known part. People worry about it. I worry about what will happen when people realize ust how toothless it is (it’s a voluntdate not a mandate) People who don’t have insurance and who aren’t exempt because insurance would cost too high a fraction of their income are supposed to pay a penalty (or tax according to the Roberts Court). If they don’t, they will get a firmly worded letter and will not get a tax refund. The normal IRS enforcement mechanisms are forbidden (this means no tax leins not just no arrests).

OK so let’s pretend that Republicans get their way and Obamacare is defunded so no money may be spent implementing or enforcing Obamacare. Does this mean that people who owe and don’t pay the penalty get their refunds ? Well no, money may be disbursed from the Treasury only as appropriated by law by Congress. The IRS can’t send people money if, according to the ACA which is still the law of the land, they aren’t owed money. The defunding just means the IRS can’t pay some poor paper pusher to decide if someone owes the penalty. It doesn’t allow the IRS to send out checks to people who are, according to the law, owed nothing just because it hasn’t checked.

In fact, I don’t think the IRS would be allowed to send anyone refund checks. People with health insurance don’t have to pay the penalty and get a refund (or owe the “amount you owe”) according to the plain old garden variety tax code. But to check the documents that prove that the tax return filer has insurance the IRS would have to spend money implementing and enforcing Obamacare.

I think the Republican proposal is to leave the tax code as it is (including the penalty) and forbid any implementation.

Everyone who would suffer from the mandate would, as far as I can tell, suffer equally from defuning. Also AFAIK everyone who wouldn’t suffer from the mandate would suffer from defunding.

I think they are counting on losing this one. They couldn’t possiblu afford to win it.