In a new report by Judicial Watch (JW), the American watchdog group says it received 185 pages of documents from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that revealed a coordinated effort between the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to advance Obamacare, with both agencies having been under former President Obama’s administration at the time.
JW found that the Obama White House behavioral sciences “team” participated in a coordinated effort with the IRS and the HHS in a $5 million program to “pressure Americans to sign up for Obamacare.”
The documents also contain agreements between the IRS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), devised to “circumvent” potential legal problems with unauthorized disclosure/inspection of taxpayer information.
The documents were obtained by court order through a JW Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS and HHS filed. JW requested records concerning IRS efforts to reach out to individuals who didn’t sign up for Obamacare, and records regarding cooperation between the IRS and HHS or “any other government entity.”
According to JW, in September 2016, IRS Director of Individual Taxation Janet McCubbin wrote the following to “several” colleagues:
“Attached are drafts of the letters that IRS will send to selected taxpayers who paid a penalty for failure to have coverage or who claimed an exemption form the coverage requirement for tax year 2015 … As you know, we are planning to send several different versions of the letter to see which types of messages work best.”
The drafts were compiled with “input from the White House Behavioral Sciences Team and CMS, and have been approved by CMS. And IRS staff provided a lot of assistance on the PDF.”
“The documents show that the agencies spent at least $5 million to develop the letters,” JW reports.
JW includes letters targeting people who claimed an exemption or legally refused to sign up for Obamacare, electing instead to pay the penalty. One letter states:
The law requires people to have a minimum level of health coverage, quality for an exemption, or pay a penalty when they file their taxes. Our records show you claimed an exemption from the health coverage requirement when you filed your 2015 taxes. If you or someone in your family doesn’t have health insurance or an exemption next year, you’ll likely owe a penalty for 2017. We are writing to make sure you know how you can avoid this penalty by signing up for health insurance or getting an exemption.
JW notes a potential problem with the letter, as a document labeled “a privacy/legal question” indicates the Obama administration was concerned it might violate a law which states “if any officer or employee of the United States” inspects or discloses information on an IRS return, the taxpayer “may bring a civil action for damages against the United States.”
JW also says that under the Obamacare law, the HHS is only authorized to send a simple notification of options. The HHS may have “overstepped its authority” by threatening penalties of up to $2,085 per family.
There were other problems with the notifications, including a misleading “best-case” cost estimate for Obamacare.
Monday’s release of documents is one of five JW expects from the IRS in their case, the rest expected by January 24, 2018.
JW President Tom Fitton said: “No wonder it took a federal lawsuit and court order to get these documents.” He feels they reveal the Obama White House was “happy to threaten” Americans “to bolster Obamacare.”
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