Obamacare's Empty Mandates

by Gerri Willis

Remember Cracker Jacks' surprise inside? Well Obamacare has it too - and it's a lulu.

Turns out, the government has no way to enforce the individual mandate - the tax that scofflaws have to pay for failing to get health insurance coverage.

That's right. There is no penalty in the law for refusing to pay the tax. So that unlike paying income taxes, if you don't get coverage, the IRS cannot seize your bank accounts or dock your wages. They can't even charge you interest on unpaid penalties!

So how is the IRS going to enforce it? I can only guess. Scary letters? Phone calls? Maybe the threat of withholding your tax refund? Of course, if you calculate your taxes so you don't get a refund, bye-bye mandate!

And the tax for failing to get coverage is not nothing.

By 2016, when the mandate is fully in place, the levy is $695 per each uninsured adult, or 2.5% of family income, up to $12,500, based on the average American's tax filing from 2010.

That works out to $1,400 per uninsured adult for the full penalty. The CBO estimates 4 million people will be on the hook unless, of course, they just decide not to pay.

Truly the emperor has no clothes - or more to the point the law has no teeth.

It gives a whole new meaning to Nancy Pelosi's now famous analysis of how we would come to know what is in the 2,409 pages of the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

But this doesn't mean you're getting off scot-free.

In fact, taxpayers will shell out between $5 and $10 billion to bolster the IRS’ collection efforts. As many as 16,500 new IRS agents will be needed, according to a report from House Ways and Means Committee Republicans.

And it's all for Obamacare's new tax bureaucracy. A bureaucracy without the power to actually do its job - enforce the mandate.

Of course, Congress could easily change that by passing a bill, but I wouldn't count on Republicans in the House agreeing to another Obamacare tax - since there are already 20.

In fact, the day after the Supremes handed down their decision on Obamacare, Republican governors were already taking advantage of an obscure part of that decision to save money.

Florida's Rick Scott was the first, and at least seven other Republican governors have joined him in rejecting the Medicaid expansion - including one today, Texas's governor Rick Perry.

This is Obamacare in a nutshell. A pack of dictates - thou shalt buy insurance, thou shalt expand Medicaid - but nothing to actually back it up.

It's a trillion-dollar paper tiger that still threatens to change the way you get health care.