On Wednesday morning, Fox News seized on the developing story about the IRS improperly targeting conservative groups applying for tax exempt status to argue that the agency may be unable to implement key aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
Fox Business’ Stuart Varney joined host Martha MacCallum to warn viewers that the IRS “will soon be collecting even more of your personal information to decide whether you are eligible for the subsidies allowed under the healthcare program.” Two Republican lawmakers — Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) — have pledged to stop the agency from hiring additional agents to ensure compliance with the individual health care mandate and weaken its role in implementing the law. “It’s possible the IRS scandal will delay the implementation of Obamacare. That’s where this is heading,” Varney exclaimed:
MACCALLUM: It’s a dangerous and slippery slope when their credibility comes into question. They know what you make. They know what your income is. Now they are supposed to marry that information with whether you are eligible for a healthcare subsidy. And that raises questions because you have got to keep them posted on every change that may lap in our employment picture.
VARNEY: There is more to it than that. Your doctor is going to put on file electronically your entire medical history. And the IRS wants to know about your health insurance. There is no wall between those two areas of information. And bearing in mind what they have done politically there is no assurance they won’t jump that wall and go into your personal medical history. That’s where the lack of trust comes in.
MACCALLUM: We were told you didn’t have to fear anything about your privacy and having your healthcare record online wasn’t an issue. But people have been scanning document for catch words you wonder what they will scan in terms of healthcare and health records. It’s a legitimate question.
In reality, there is no evidence that the impropriety in the IRS office responsible for granting tax-exempt status to social welfare groups has bled over into other parts of the agency.
Sixty percent or approximately 160 million Americans who receive health care coverage from their employers already write-off the cost of their health care benefits through the IRS and have done so without widespread privacy issues. Families who enroll in nongroup policies and itemize their deductions have been deducting a portion of their medical expenses and the self-employed are receiving a deduction from the IRS “when calculating their income tax for the amount paid for health insurance for themselves and their spouse or dependents.”
The Affordable Care Act will increase the IRS’ involvement in health care while strengthening existing privacy protections by expanding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).