House Republicans are launching a fresh attack on ObamaCare, charging that the Internal Revenue Service cannot be trusted to implement it.
The lawmakers say the tax agency is unable to fairly oversee provisions of the healthcare law for which it is responsible, such as providing tax credits for the new insurance marketplaces.
"In fact, it is likely that Americans will be at even greater risk of having their identity stolen or private taxpayer information leaked as result of the law,” Camp said.
“The law is becoming increasingly unfair, unworkable and untenable,” he added.
Danny Werfel, the acting head of the IRS, told lawmakers on Thursday that officials are taking every precaution to make sure that individuals’ personal information is protected when the agency works to confirm that people qualify for the new healthcare tax credits.
“There are all kinds of safeguards and procedures that we put in place when we share taxpayer information outside of the IRS,” Werfel said.
The IRS already shares information about taxpayers with other federal agencies to confirm information for programs like Medicaid, Werfel said. Though they are not perfect, Werfel said, those protections have “historically proven effective … in mitigating the risk of any taxpayer information being used or accessed for unauthorized purposes.”
Democrats rejected the Republican complaints.
The information the IRS shares will be purely to tell whether or not applicants for assistance qualify for tax credits, they said, not personal medical data.
“They wont have anything about anybody’s ingrown toenails in this report,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). He added that Republicans were engaging in “a desperate, 11th hour attempt to stop a law that will help Americans.”
GOP lawmakers, however, pointed to claims by conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage that the IRS has leaked information about their donors for political reasons.
“The government was investigating people and targeting them based upon their political views. That’s not phony; that’s real,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Camp told the head of the IRS that he doubts the agency can be trusted to verify whether people fully qualify for the insurance assistance.
The government will confirm whether or not applicants for the credits are telling the truth about their incomes by looking at existing data, like previous years’ tax returns.
If the government cannot confirm the income, “then we are going to ask for further information and verification such as paystubs from every applicant,” said Gary Cohen, head of the consumer information office at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Republicans also lambasted the Obama administration for delaying a provision of the healthcare law that would require businesses with 50 or more full-time workers to provide healthcare.
The Treasury Department announced in early July that the provision, known as the employer mandate, would be delayed for one year, until 2015. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office determined that the delay would cost the government about $12 billion.
“Is it fair that businesses — big businesses — are off the hook while the average taxpayer is going to be required to buy federally defined acceptable coverage through the individual mandate?” Camp asked.
Werfel responded that the decision was made to accommodate business concerns.
“The employers and the business community reached out, indicated a need for more time, and there was a balancing decision made that we should provide them that more time,” he said.
Ryan challenged Werfel on possible consequences of the delayed employer mandate. Individuals will still be required to carry insurance or face a tax penalty, setting up a potentially baffling set of contradicting rules.
“I don’t think you understand the law you are in charge of executing and enforcing,” Ryan told him.
On Friday, the House is expected to vote on the Keep the IRS Off Your Healthcare Act, which would block funding for the agency to implement the law. The bill was introduced in May, after it was revealed that the IRS was giving extra scrutiny to conservative groups looking to apply for tax-exempt status.
Democrats claim the attack is just the latest in a tired offensive against the healthcare law.
“The Republican mission is clear: don’t implement, destroy,” said Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.
Friday’s vote would be the House’s 40th to repeal part or all of the law.
— This story was updated at 11:02 a.m. and 11:55 a.m.