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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

News flash – there is no penalty for failing to get health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

This news flash is prompted by a headline atop the front page of The New York Times Monday morning: “Talk of Penalty is Missing in Ads for Health Care.”

Reporter Anemona Hartocollis built an entire piece around a faulty premise, stated clearly in her third sentence.  Times editors embraced her flawed reporting with the gusto of prominent placement, giving unwarranted credibility to what is, to be polite, a pile of misinformation.

Had Hartocollis read the law – or had any of the dozen or so Times editors who review every Page One story done so – they would not have published such nonsense anywhere in the paper.

The Times reported that the state and federal health exchanges are using humor and happy talk to sell the insurance products, criticizing this because:

The one part of the new system that they are not quick to trumpet is the financial penalty that Americans will face if they fail to buy insurance.

Had anyone at the Times read the law, they would know that is bunk. Here is what the law says, with statutory numbering removed:

WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES. – In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by the section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalties with respect to such failure.

LIMITATIONS ON LIENS AND LEVIES. – The Secretary [read IRS] shall not – file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or levy on any such property with respect to such failure.

There is a simple way for the world’s most authoritative newspaper to stop embarrassing itself this way – require reporters to actually read the laws they write about, a policy I suggested when I was a reporter there, obviously to no avail.

You can read the law yourself by going to the Government Printing Office website.

To read the quoted language just jump down to page 249 of the PDF, which is part of Chapter 48, titled “Maintenance of Minimum Essential Coverage.”  That chapter begins at page 244 of the PDF.

To its credit, the Times does not completely ignore the story’s phony premise. After the jump from Page One to Page A14 – studies show about 85 percent of readers stop at the jump – Hartocollis offers a line that should have had editors questioning the premise of the piece. She wrote:

But there is also the dirty little secret of the penalty: It is a bit of a chimera, because the federal government cannot use its usual tools like fines, liens or criminal prosecutions to punish people who do not pay it. The penalty is supposed to be reported and paid with the income tax returns of those who do not buy insurance, but the government has not said how it will collect from those who owe it but do not pay it, though the law allows it to deduct from any income tax refunds.

That phrase “has not said” should have prompted a lot of questions from editors. Evidently not.

Another former Times reporter has a smart line about such flawed stories. Seymour Hersh once told me that on the front page of the Times, “you can read the greatest journalism human beings have ever produced, but move over one column and you may find pure crap.”

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  • Philip Damra

    Sure, you don’t have to pay a penalty, but what this article doesn’t tell you is that if you don’t get insurance your children will be taken from you and placed into forced gay marriages with illegals!

    • 788eddie

      I knew it! I just knew they were goin’ to do somethin’ like that!

    • John Abreau

      Not just any illegals; the children will be forced to marry Silurian lizard people and be relocated to Victorian England more than a hundred years ago, where they’ll employ a Sontaran butler! Oh the humanity!

      • InsideEye

        You lack credibility, there are no illegals PERIOD. REPEAT IT 46 times.

    • howa4x

      What drugs are you taking? You seem to be hallucinating. All you know how to do is to spout right wing scare tactics. I’ve never seen such absurd comments.

      • nirodha

        Hey, lighten up, dude! Philip is laying a little satire on us, and it’s pretty good.

        • howa4x

          I read so much drivel from the right wing its hard to tell it’s satire

  • Michael C Stephenson

    A tax on non-compliance differs from a penalty in name only. The Obama administration envisioned it as a penalty to avoid breaking a promise on middle class taxation. When the Supreme deemed it a tax, the Obama folks were forced to adjust their story.

  • InsideEye

    Of course there is no penalty, the non sensical language implies that thenIRS will take it out of refunds…but these people do not work , or have incomes that will not have a refund. What a mis represented law? This ACA is. It should be abandoned due to its fraudulent intent. It requires more to fix than starting over, being re done by a non political committee, nor lawyers….same thing I figger. It can be corrected by a citizens group and professionals in health care for the best of all…no PACs, no politics . END.

    • nana4gj

      Why do you assume “these people do not work?” Eligibility for enrollment in ACA Plans is for people who are uninsured or underinsured and many employed people are uninsured or underinsured, if their employer offers no group health. They are the people who have individual policies, for whatever reason; they are the people who have been dropped from insurances. They are those who are ineligible for Medicaid and financially unable to purchase health insurance on their own and do not have any other private or public funding source.

      Like the 50 year old who has been outsourced and having difficulty finding a job or is employed again in a job that does not have health insurance. I have had two family members over the course of the last 7 years who have worked all their lives, hard, and had pre existing conditions who, once their COBRA was done, went without insurance. One had a hospitalization and paid for it with her savings after negotiating to pay what an insurance company would pay. The other charged the required periodic MRIs of the brain and expensive Rx meds with credit cards, as he did whatever work he could find until he found a good job.

      When you want to opine on critical issues that significantly impact a person’s life and well being, you should not base opinions on assumptions or subjective pre-conceived perceptions of large groups of people.

      • InsideEye

        I was referring to people that can not be penalized, since they are on entitlements and their income does not allow even tax refunds to be extorted by the IRS. The angst with opponents is that not everyone is a contributor to their healthcare and that the burden of paying is placed on all working tax payers and the one Percenters. Medicare and Social Security are not entitlements, but are paid for ….not sufficiently …by the working middle class. There would be a semblance of fairness if everyone paid into the ACA through a national sales tax for this purpose.

        • omgamike

          Everyone who does not have insurance and does not obtain insurance will be penalized. But the penalties don’t mean anything for anyone, as they can’t be enforced.
          Yes, ACA increased standards on all insurance. Would you want to be paying for insurance, that the first time you have an accident or injury and go to the hospital, just to find out that your insurance didn’t cover you for anything. The ACA gets rid of those “junk” policies and establishes standards that everyone has to meet.
          It’s annoying when I hear people gripe about having one type of coverage, or another, that they don’t want because they don’t, or won’t, use it, or don’t believe in it. Get over it. You may not have kids in school, but you still have to pay your share of the cost. The same with police forces and firefighters. I don’t like paying for our country getting into wars, but I still have to pay my taxes. Get over it.

    • omgamike

      There will be fixes to the ACA over time. Just as SS and Medicare had many issues which needed to be addressed when they were first rolled out — issues which were addressed and fixed over the years. It would have been a lot better to begin with had it not been for all the right wing opposition and fighting the bill at every step of the legislative process. That’s how the bloody bill ended up over 2000 pages long, what with all of the amendments, watering down what would have been a much stronger bill. There are just too many politicians beholden to the health care industry, the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. I’m astonished that they all don’t have torn muscles and tendons from grabbing all that lobbying money from all directions at the same time.

      • InsideEye

        I agree with all of your views, wish that politics / PACs .were left out of this…it is a money grab… everyone is getting the truth …..maybe . The bill should have been added on to the Medicare system it is already doing a good administrative job. No need to create another bureaucracy….or even use insurance company admin. knowledge . Follow the money….this is too simple to screw up like this. ….there is more to this than meets the eye.
        “Politicians… not vote for them…it only encourages them.” ,Will Rogers.

  • Bill Thompson

    Call it what you will tax, penalty, the fact of the matter is in most cases it will not be substantial enough to make people enroll unless they want to. The penalty/tax will increase as time goes on 2016 is the date that the tax will become punitive enough that people will want to enroll. As for the New York Times long-winded doesn’t always equal in-depth reporting.

  • itsfun

    The author of this article says we should require reporters to read a law before they write about it. How about our politicians being required to read a law before they pass it. What did Nancy say, something like we need to pass this, so we can find out what is in it? The author goes on to say there is not death tax, instead a estate or gift tax. I don’t care what you label a law, a tax on your estate is a death tax.

    • Lola Johnson

      A tax on your estate is an estate tax, not a death tax. A tax on your income is an income tax, not a life tax. Pelosi said we need to pass the bill, so the people can learn what is in it, because once they know, they will like it. Also, the bill was posted online prior to its passing. I read it, did you? Or did you just let Fox tell you lies?

      • itsfun

        I am yet to see a estate sale for a live person. it is a death tax. Apparently you believe that politicians don’t need to read or know what is in a bill to pass it. Nancy had no idea what was in the bill and you know that. She did say what I said. You are just trying to spin her words like many are trying to spin Obama’s words when he said you can keep your health care plan – period. People don’t like the law at all, the more they learn about it. What lies did Fox report? None – your only defense of this train wreck is calling others liars, when the President is the only liar here.

        • latebloomingrandma

          Actually, an estate tax is something the founding fathers would have approved of. They were quite concerned about this new country NOT having an established aristocracy, where wealth was merely transferred to generations in a dynastic sort of way. We were supposed to be more of a meritocracy than an aristocracy.
          Secondly, the quote by Nancy Pelosi is quite famous, but lacks content. If you remember the back and forth between the Senate and House during that sausage making of the ACA, the bills between the 2 chambers had to be reconciled. When it was getting down to the wire, the Senate had their final changes. It was at that point, when asked about the content, she said they had to pass the bill before they knew what was in it. Then the House could do their final reconciliation of the 2 bills. I only heard it reported like this once, but it made sense. The old story was able to keep a lot more lampooning go on, though.

          • highpckts


          • nirodha

            The uninformed in the right wing(typically, a majority of them) delight in taking information like this out of context, applying their negative, anti-Obama spin, and then presenting it to their untutored (read ignorant) adherents as fact.

        • Me, Myself and I

          The media lists the taxes as though there are three different taxes, the estate tax, the death tax and the gift tax, whereas there are only two, the estate tax which is what you refer to as the ‘death tax’ and then the gift tax. The estate tax and the ‘death tax’ are the same tax. It is unfair and dishonest of the media to list them as though they are two distinct taxes when they are not.

          This is what Nancy said verbatim: “You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting. But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” 9 March, 2010.

          It’s apparent she was familiar enough with the law to know about its focus on preventative care and how that could eventually change the face the country. She knew enough to have an opinion that the changes are going to be exciting. And the statement that is taken out of context simply means with all the controversy surrounding the ACA, it’s gonna have to pass and be experienced so the people can find out what it’s about… away from the fog of controversy. The controversy that was started by the republicans simply because they hate the president and wanted him to fail. This is common knowledge. Where have you been?

          I don’t believe the president deliberately lied about keeping ones policy if they liked it. He believed what he was saying. He did not foresee this happening. But he took responsibility for it instead of arrogantly ignoring it and he apologized for it and said he would do his best to fix the situation for the people. That’s far more than any republican politician or president has done when they screw up. Bush has yet to take responsibility for his Liar’s War and the destruction of our economy. Ted Cruz has yet to humbly take responsibility for the govt shutdown and admit his mistake and offer some kind of restitution to those thousands who lost income. The republicans have yet to apologize for any of the destruction they have wrought to this nation since they met to plot Obama’s downfall January, 20, 2009.

          Don’t point fingers at the democrats or the president when you have a fist full pointing back to your own party and political leaders.

          • itsfun

            That is what Nancy said. But I must disagree with you on the President lying to us. It has been proven that he knew as early as 2010 that people would not be able to keep their policies. He still kept telling us we would be able to keep our policies. That is out and out lying. He has never taken responsibility for any of his screw ups. He spent 4 years blaming George Bush for every problem in the country. He claims he knew nothing of giving arms to Mexican drug cartels. He claims he knew noting of Benghazi. He claims he knew nothing about the IRS targeting conservative groups. He claims he knew nothing spying on AP reporters or FOX news people. He had a red line, then he didn’t have a red line, the world did. He wasn’t apologizing for the health care screw-up. He is only sorry about being caught in his lies. He spies on world leaders. How many world leaders do you believe will ever believe him again after being caught in his lies?

        • omgamike

          They don’t tax your cold, dead body. There is a tax on your “living” estate. Your estate, if you have one, is still alive, waiting to be distributed to your heirs, or your charities, or for a grump like you, you could probably take it with you.

          And Fox news tells nothing ‘but’ lies, always have, always will.

          • itsfun

            You can spin words anyway you want to, but it is still a death tax. It is a tax on top of the taxes already paid for the things in the estate. The government taxes my stuff even after I am dead. Welcome to the USSA. It always amazes me when people tell me how much FOX news lies. These are always the same people that tell me they never watch FOX news. Amazing how people can tell me about what is on a network they never watch.

          • sandra350

            Fox News viewers are the most uninformed viewers in the entire country – they were TOTALLY shocked that Obama won the 2012 election because they were told not to believe the polls. Whereas the rest of the country was not shocked at all. Last week Fox News viewers were also utterly misinformed about the Virginia elections — they were way behind in the coverage while all the other networks were on top of the results as they were coming in. Your post on a so-called “death tax” (which affects an extremely tiny percentage of people with estates) is complete bullshit idiocy. Go back to school and turn off Fox News, a network that lies to its viewers every single day 24/7.

          • itsfun

            And you would know this – how? Amazing somehow you must be watching all the networks at the same time. Tell me, what do you love so much about the death tax? If you only want to hear one side of a issue, you should never watch FOX. They always have a liberal and a conservative on together to give their sides of issues. I find the best way is to listen to both sides and then you can make a somewhat educated decision. Both sides almost always have good points and bad points.

    • nana4gj

      If I could keep up with the Congressional Committees during ACA legislation and with the final product, while Republicans were busy with Town Halls and sound bite appearances before the TV cameras making up scary stories about it, they could have, as well. There were no secrets if one cared to be informed.

  • nana4gj

    I read that NYT story on Monday and knew it was erroneous reporting. But an ordinary reader such as myself, who has kept informed on ACA, does not have enough time or venues, to keep the media honest and accurate today.

    I found it disgraceful and appreciate this article. During the healthcare reform debate, Committee hearings, until the final bill was drafted, voted, signed, the NYT had daily, in depth reporting, not by Hartacollis, on everything, including graphics that compared amendments proposed, etc. I believed they deserved a Pulitzer Prize for their non-biased, factual, informative series.

    Maybe, the current brouhaha was just too good for even the NYT to pass up, in which case, we are in real doo-doo but not because of the ACA, because of today’s journalism.

  • elw

    Contempt for newspapers and newscasters that push misinformation is only one small affect of “misinformation” journalist and elected individuals has gotten into the habit of pushing. Its only purpose is to cause confusion and fear and as a result has produced a public that no longer trusts it sources of information or the people they send to office. The thing is with lying is sooner or later it catches up with you. If you tell people over and over that Obamacare will cost them more and it does not, who are they going to be angry at and mistrust? It also makes people angry. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior, it is laziness, unethical and harmful. It is why newspapers and losing readers, newscaster listeners and why the radical Right is losing followers. Like all criminal activities sooner or later the perpetuators of it gets caught and pays the price.

  • howa4x

    Even the NYT does shoddy reporting. Is nothing scared?

  • Kurt CPI

    If you actually read the article, you’ll see that the NY Times actually DID report correctly. The author’s position states that because there’s no teeth (yet) for enforcement of the the penalty that the penalty should be considered not to exist, even though it does. It’s a silly article. Anyway, you can bet all those IRS hires and training programs weren’t for nothing. If enough people opt out of healthcare AND fail to pay the penalty – which is not unlikely – authorities will quickly be given the means to insure everyone pays their share. If you want to understand the penalty, there’s a great website here:

    • nirodha

      Kurt, I checked out the website you mention, and it is very complete. Thanks.

    • omgamike

      What I read was that, yes, the true info was in the article, but that it was the placement of the information that was shoddy. They put the misinformation on the front page and then clarify it back a few pages. The effect being that people glance over the front page and seldom turn the page to read the rest of an article, and thus go away with wrong assumptions.

      • Kurt CPI

        Yep, pretty much like this article that condemns the Times reporting as at best, incompetent and at worst, a flat out lie. Then near the bottom of the first page the author notes that the Times article does indeed mention the non-enforcement. Reading most of the posts in this forum, how many people’s responses seem like they read that part? In fact, there is a penalty and it’s called a penalty – but you can call it a fee, tax, fine, whatever you like. The fact that it’s not currently being enforced has much more to do with the logistics of enforcement than it does with any philosophy of not wanting an enforceable mandate. I’ll bet you a wooden nickel that enforcement will commence within 2 years – if they can get ACA working by then :-).

        • ObozoMustGo

          they hate it when you turn their own logic on them, Kurt.

        • ObozoMustGo

          And you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that Obozo will have his STASI from the IRS out there hounding and threatening in order to collect at that time. No doubt about it!

  • infadelicious

    obamacare is …………………..

    • ObozoMustGo

      I stole you pic and put it elsewhere. I hope you don’t mind.

      • infadelicious

        My pictures are your pictures. And all you National Memo lefties out there are welcome to repost them too 😉

        • ObozoMustGo

          You mean you’ll let the national mendicants at The National Memo reuse your pictures? That’s very nice of you infadelicious. You’re quite generous to them when they don’t even deserve it.

          • Kurt CPI

            Oops. Wrong place.

  • Bryan Blake

    This seems to be a venerated tradition at the NYT. Remember Cheney’s favorite disinformation reporter and the Iraq War?

  • ObozoMustGo

    Obozodon’tcare is a sheet sandwich for America. The web site is just the wrapper on that sheet sandwich and that is a complete failure.

    Congrats to Obozo…. he’s managed to be a complete failure once again.

    Have a nice day!

    “I don’t think your boss should get to control the health care you get. I don’t think insurance companies should control the care that you get. I don’t think politicians should control the care that you get. I think there’s one person to make these decisions on health care and that is you.” – Guess who said it

    • infadelicious

      If you like your slavery errr uh I mean Health insurance plan you can keep it PERIOD

      • InsideEye

        Someone, thought that the three of us are the same person. Chuckle.
        A little humor and satire is often not enjoyed by elitists.

        • infadelicious

          i know, like we need to waste time and energy with more than one poster account. They’re just in denial that more than one person can actually oppose their messiah and his policies. The obama sheep , in their blind obedience bleat out vulgar insults and labels to deflect from the fact they have no defense for his blatant lying and failed policies. it’s like they are in a cult.

          • InsideEye

            Tis true they just call,opposing views bigoted or racist and run the other way, not being able to counter point for point. Keep in there.

          • infadelicious

            the left however, don’t want black people to be conservative They call conservative people like Cain and Carson that talk about personal accountability and hard work “uncle toms”. They are not people with ambitions and dreams and good character and values, they are supposed to fit into one of the democratic party’s special interest groups to be pandered to for votes in exchange for entitlements. And yes, I chalk a lot of the vitriol they use to deflect up to misdirected anger at having been duped not once , but twice by a snakeoil salesman.

    • omgamike

      Glad to see you’re still out here trolling for all of our benefit. My day wouldn’t be complete without Obozo making his hilarious appearance.

      • ObozoMustGo

        I am here to educate and help, Mike. Keep reading and you may actually learn how to think properly… just sayin

        • jnap

          You are here to spread hate and crap and you get paid to do it. Now I wonder who would pay someone to spread hate and crap? Do you think it is the hard right wing obstructionists? Do you think it is the Republican, do nothing but give tax breaks to the rich, party? Do you think it is the Tea Party which is the only group that ever existed that is suicidal and believes anything that is good for them is not good for them.
          Did your kid get insurance yet or is he following his dad and using the ER for care and stiffing the taxpayer?

  • TheRoadToSerfdom

    Why add a penalty that’s not going to be enforced?

  • Nathaniel

    Yesterday on MSNBC, an official who helped w/both the MA (Romney’s) & the Obama administration’s Health Care initiatives’ roll out, commented that what we’re actually witnessing is the commonplace, initial information-gathering exercise by the public, before it has all the needed info, in making a more informed judgement in the spring of next years. The time, coincidentally, that open enrollment will cease. Unable to articulate this, the administration continues to defensively back-peddle on all that’s gone wrong so far, when all they needed to do is tell people – & especially the media – is just chill out & let this new program do what it’s suppose to do – give people who don’t have it, quality health care! Oh, & get rid of the privatized amatures who collected millions in fees for the sake of (maybe?! intentionally) embarrassing the administration, w/an inferior & dysfunctional product, when government PROFESSIONALS do the job far better, for much less… The benefit of unions, in other words!!!