The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Jail Time Under Obamacare?

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This video out of Colorado brings home an important point. The U.S. government has made it illegal not to buy health insurance.

Of course, instead of jail time, individuals and businesses that don’t purchase health insurance will see heavy fines.

  • Individuals who do not purchase adequate health insurance will be fined 2.5 percent of their income.
  • Likewise, companies with 50 or more employees are required to offer “minimum essential coverage,” as defined by the Secretary of Health & Human Services. The fine for not doing so is $2,000 per full-time employee.

Could such fines translate into jail time?

It seems unlikely. To begin with, the federal health care law – as bad as it is – specifically forbids imposing criminal penalties for failing to pay penalties related to the purchase of health insurance. Reads p. 131 of the law:

‘‘(A) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES.—In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.”

This provision, though, could be amended. Likewise, Obamacare could snowball into a system in which it is illegal to purchase health care services on the free market – that is, out-of-pocket, instead of via a government-approved health insurance plan. This is precisely the kind of devolution the Colorado amendment is designed to prevent.

Reads the amendment:

Section 32. Right to health care choice.

(1) All persons shall have the right to health care choice. No statute, regulation, resolution, or policy adopted or enforced by the state of Colorado, its departments and agencies, independently or at the instance of the United States shall:  (a) require any person directly or indirectly to participate in any public or private health insurance plan, health coverage plan, health benefit plan, or similar plan; or (b) deny, restrict, or penalize the right or ability of any person to make or receive direct payments for lawful health care services.

(2) This section shall not apply to, affect, or prohibit:(a) emergency medical treatment required by law to be provided or performed by hospitals, health facilities, or other health care providers; or (b) health benefits provided in connection with workers’ compensation or similar insurance.

(3) “Lawful health care services” means any service or treatment permitted or not prohibited by any provision of Colorado law.

(4) This section is intended to reflect and affirm the powers reserved to the state by U.S. Const., Amend. X, and to implement the powers reserved to the people by section 1 of Article V of this Constitution.

(5) This section shall become effective upon proclamation by the governor, shall be self implementing in all respects, and shall supersede any provision to the contrary in the constitution of the state of Colorado or any other provision of law.

(6) If any provision of this section or the application thereof to any person, entity, or circumstances is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of this section that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this section are declared severable.

As we wrote earlier this year, protecting the right to health care choice does not nullify Obamacare. What it does is guarantee the right to continue to purchase health care, apart from health insurance. Essentially, it guarantees the right to a private health care market.

Here in South Carolina lawmakers considered several bills that would have protected health care choice. None of these made it to the floor for a vote.

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Written by Jameson Taylor

October 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Insurance

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