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    Obamacare Reality Check: Forced Disclosure of Personal Finances

    08/12/2009

    Starting on page 819 of H.R. 3200 - one of the main health care reform bills circulating in Congress:

    Upon written request from the Commissioner of Social Security, the following return information shall be disclosed to officers and employees of the Social Security Administration…

    (i) return information for the applicable year from returns with respect to wages and payments of retirement income

    (ii) unearned income information and income information of the taxpayer from partnerships, trusts, estates, and chapter S corporations for the applicable year

    (iii) if the individual filed an income tax return for the applicable year, the filing status, number of dependents, income from farming, and income from self-employment, on such return

    (v) if the individual files a joint return for the applicable year, the social security number, unearned income information, and income information from partnerships, trusts, estates, and subchapter corporations of the individual’s spouse on such return, and

    (vi) such other return information relating to the individual (or the individual's spouse in the case of a joint return) as is prescribed by the Secretary by regulation as might indicate that the individual is likely to be ineligible for a low-income prescription drug subsidy under section 1860D-14 of the Social Security Act.

     

    Essentially, if the Commissioner of Social Security requests it, then you are compelled to reveal most of your personal finances to government bureaucrats of the Social Security Administration.

     

    Update on August 13:

    Sickle made several attacks on this post. On one point he is partially correct. First, the facts. This is another part of this section quoted above:

    The Commissioner of Social Security shall request information under this paragraph only with respect to-

    (i) individuals the Social Security Administration has identified, using all other reasonably available information, as likely to be eligible for a low-income prescription drug subsidy under section 1860D-14 of the Social Security Act and who have not applied for such subsidy, and

    (ii): any individual the Social Security Administration has identified as a spouse of an individual described in clause (i).

    I should have included that originally. The problem, of course, is who is to say what is 'reasonably available information'? How is 'likely' defined?

     

    What if an average guy who does not qualify for the low-income subsidy but comes close to qualifying is chosen by the Commissioner? Well, then most his personal finances are revealed by force for no other reason than the fact that the Commissioner thought he might be eligible for and desire the low-income subsidy. He does not even need to know that he was evaluated for qualification for low-income subsidies. Consent is irrelevant.

    What is defined as reasonable? Can the Commissioner ask government employees to find out if he has a car, a house, apartment, etc? How big is the apartment? What kind of neighborhood is it in? How does he dress? Does he have two jobs or one? What kind of jobs? Is all of this snooping reasonable? Whose to say? It’s all publicly accessible. What about checking out his tax return from the IRS? The Commissioner is doing this for what he thinks is this guy’s own good.

    The guy does not even need to be informed that the reason a government worker is following him to work, checking out his house from public roads, and stalking him is to see if they think he could qualify for low-income subsidies. Just to clarify - I am not saying this would happen, obviously. That would be ridiculous, but the point is that the bill should specify what 'reasonably available information' is.

    Sickle is right that I did not include this yesterday, but I do not think he undermines my basic point.

    My full response to Sickle's critique may be found in the comments.