BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — The U.S. Supreme Court may have upheld President Obamaâ€™s national health care law last week, but the debate rages on. The Supreme Court decided the Affordable Care Act is constitutional because of Congressâ€™ broad taxation powers. So Republicans are wasting no time in calling the law a tax on Americans, including Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
â€śThis massive new entitlement means trillions in new spending and higher taxes,â€ť said Brown in his latest radio report.
The ACA requires Americans to buy health insurance. Those who do not must pay a penalty on their annual tax form. If the Court calls that a tax, thatâ€™s bad news for Obama, whoâ€™s promised not to raise taxes on the middle class. Governor Deval Patrick, an Obama campaign surrogate, dismisses the labels, but takes care to call it a penalty, not a tax.
â€śI donâ€™t care what itâ€™s called,â€ť said Patrick. â€śAnd I think it doesnâ€™t help to quibble over whether the penalty is a penalty or whether itâ€™s something else masquerading as a penalty. Itâ€™s a solution.â€ť
And for once, Mitt Romneyâ€™s campaign can agree. The former governor also signed the individual health insurance mandate in Massachusetts in 2006. His campaign is calling it a penalty, not a tax.
Health Care For All executive director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer was a key advocate in support of the Massachusetts health care bill when it passed. She says the distinction between tax and penalty is more of a national phenomenon. It was never an issue during debates within the state.
â€śWe didnâ€™t discuss whether it was a tax or a penalty,â€ť said Slemmer. â€śWe agreed that there had to be some sort of enforcement mechanism â€¦What this is trying to do is make sure that there are very few free riders, folks who can afford it but donâ€™t.â€ť
Slemmer agrees with the governor that it doesnâ€™t matter what itâ€™s called in the end, but fears the language will continue to be used as a political weapon.
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