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By Rochelle Koff August 28, 2013

NRCC says Patrick Murphy ‘voted to keep the scandal-ridden IRS in charge of enforcing Obamacare’

In a YouTube video published Aug. 22, the National Republican Congressional Committee took a swipe at U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for his vote against an attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act.

The video’s message: "The most dreaded return address in America. The IRS. And just days ago, Congressman Patrick Murphy voted to keep the scandal-ridden IRS in charge of enforcing Obamacare. Just what you need. To owe more to the IRS. Under Obamacare, your insurance premiums could double and your personal data could be at risk. Call Patrick Murphy. Ask him to get the IRS out of your health care."

The NRCC published the same YouTube video about U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., and William Enyart, D-Ill.

In this item we’re focusing on whether the IRS is "in charge" of enforcing Obamacare. The video leaves the impression that the agency is the chief enforcer over the whole shebang.

It is true that Murphy, who represents parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, joined most Democrats Aug. 2 in opposing the  "Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013."  

The congressman’s legislative director, Chris Fisher, said this act "would prevent the Department of Treasury (and anything under it, including IRS) from enforcing any portion of Obamacare. It's basically a repeal vote for every part of the law that falls under Treasury jurisdiction."

Murphy voted no, Fisher said, because the measure would raise taxes on small businesses and working families. "The $5,000 small business tax credit and tax credits to help you buy insurance if you are up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line fall under the Treasury," Fisher noted. "These would go away if the anti-IRS bill became law tomorrow."

Murphy was among 185 Democrats who voted against the measure, which passed the House Aug. 2, with the approval of 228 Republicans and four Democrats. It’s the 40th attempt to dismantle the law, which all have failed because Democrats control the Senate and the White House.

The video by the NRCC political committee is the latest sweeping comment about the IRS’ role in implementing the new health law -- especially in recent months, since the agency came under fire for giving particular scrutiny to some conservative groups seeking tax exemptions.

As to the specific claim, NRCC spokesman Katie Prill said, "It has been noted by several news organizations that the IRS will play a ‘dominant role’ in enforcing Obamacare" and referred to a May article from the McClatchy Washington Bureau. It called the IRS an "important cog" and said the tax agency "must act on 47 provisions of the new law, more than half of those already in effect, including the more controversial ones taking effect in 2014 such as the requirement that nearly all non-elderly adults have health care coverage."

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But health care policy experts say that implying that the IRS is in charge of enforcing the new health law is misleading.

The IRS is certainly involved in implementing the Affordable Care Act, including subsidies and penalties, "but hardly the whole ACA," said Eric Toder, co-director of the Washington-based Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.

In a previous fact-check, we noted that the IRS has posted a list of its many roles dealing with the health care law, everything from levying additional payroll taxes on certain high-income Americans to taxation of medical devices and brand-name drugs. Its best known role, beginning in 2014, is to confirm that a taxpayer has health insurance and to assess a financial penalty if they do not. (The penalties start at $95 per adult in 2013 and rise to $695 per adult in 2016.)

But states and other agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Labor and other agencies "play just as important a role," in implementing the new health care law, says Katie Keith, a consultant and former researcher with Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.

Greg Mellowe, policy director for the healthcare consumer advocacy group, Florida CHAIN, said that responsibility for implementing and enforcing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is divided by function.

The Department of Health and Human Services, not the IRS, is considered the lead agency in this regard, he said. The Department of Labor notes its involvement with regulations that affect employment-based, private-sector, group-health plans.

The IRS (Department of the Treasury) has authority with respect to regulations that pertain to income and taxation. "The IRS is the only entity that can appropriately implement and enforce these tax-related provisions," Mellowe said.

Moreover, states also have a major role to play -- mainly by running health insurance exchanges. Florida, which opted against creating a state-based exchange, passed legislation, SB 1842, that maintained the state Office of Insurance Regulation’s current authority to review health insurance policy forms for compliance with state and federal laws as part of a collaborative effort with the HHS. For issues of noncompliance with federal law, the OIR would attempt to obtain voluntary compliance and, if they're unable to do that, HHS would provide the enforcement.

Our ruling

The NRCC video stated that the IRS would be in charge of enforcing Obamacare. While the IRS will play a major role in enforcing elements of the Affordable Care Act, stating that the agency is "in charge" of enforcing the new health law is misleading and leaves out the vital roles of the states, the health department, the department of labor and other agencies in enforcing and implementing various aspects of the law. We rate the NRCC’s claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

YouTube video, the National Republican Congressional Committee, Aug. 22, 2013

Email interview, Fabien Levy, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Aug. 27, 2013

Email and phone interview, Eric Toder, Institute Fellow, Urban Institute and co-director, Tax Policy Center, Aug. 26, 2013

Email interviews, Chris Fisher, legislative director to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, Aug. 22 and 23, 2013

Email interview, Greg Mellowe, policy director for Florida CHAIN, Aug. 27, 2013

Email interview, U.S. Department of Labor, Aug. 27, 2013

IRS website, Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions, Aug. 22, 2013

Email statement, Katie Prill, spokesman National Republican Congressional Committee, Aug. 23, 2013

Phone, email interview, Katie Keith, consultant and former researcher with Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, co-author of a March 2012 report titled "Implementing the Affordable Care Act: State Action on the 2014 Market Reforms, "  Aug. 27, 2013

PolitiFact, "Michelle Bachmann says the IRS is "going to be in charge of our healthcare,"  May 20, 2013

PolitiFact, "Democrats say Florida stripped insurance commissioner of power to set health plan rates," Aug. 1, 2013

Daily Camera, "House bans IRS enforcement of Health Care," Aug. 2, 2013

PolitiFact, "Democrats say Florida stripped insurance commissioner of power to set health plan rates," Aug. 1, 2013

McClatchy Washington Bureau, "Scandal draws questions about IRS role in enforcing Obamacare,"  May 23, 2013

Palm Beach Post, "Both parties use IRS controversy as soapbox,"  May 20, 2013

New York Times, "Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law, 5-4, in Victory for Obama," June 28, 2012

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NRCC says Patrick Murphy ‘voted to keep the scandal-ridden IRS in charge of enforcing Obamacare’

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