There are various things that taxpayers need to understand about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Some of the main issues that have caused confusion and varied interpretations from various “learned friends” include whether “individual mandate” is a violation of the law, and if it is indeed a violation of the law, should the act be struck down altogether? What of the lawsuits timing? Finally, can the federal government expand the medical program and get state funding if they comply? The answers to these concerns are discussed below.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the “shared responsibility payment” is not a penalty but a tax. Constitutionally, the Congress is authorized to regulate all federal taxes. Unlike the penalties that are meant for unlawful acts, the payment is collected by the IRS through routine taxation. Furthermore, taxpayers have no otherwise but to purchase health insurance. There are no legal consequences for not purchasing a health insurance that the Affordable Care Act or any other law for that matter.
Those who fail to buy the health insurance have to pay a price. That doesn’t mean you will be thrown behind bars or punished as the Act prohibits the IRS from commencing any legal proceedings against you like is the case with criminal prosecution and levies.
The mandate can be categorized as a tax since it complies with Direct Tax Clause as per Article One, Section 2, and Clause 3 of the United States Constitution. There have been some other schools of thought that have attempted to categorize the mandate under the Commerce Clause (Article One, Section 8, clause 3 of the United States Constitution). However, this has been challenged because such a move would mean giving the Congress the power to control individuals just because they are doing nothing. This would be adding up to an already swollen congressional authority. What the act does is simply creating the buying of health of insurance, and not regulating it.
There have been other suggestions that the mandate be sustained under the Necessary and Proper Clause as per Article One, Section 8, Clause 18 of the United States Constitution. This as well was challenged. By a simple fact that the Clause couldn’t be categorized under the Commerce or the Necessary and Proper Clause doesn’t hold enough water to have it blocked. All that is required is that it falls under the constitution; a tax.