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Judicial Watch: Documents Show HHS Used IRS to Push Obamacare, Use of Confidential Taxpayer Information Raises Legal Questions

IRS/HHS Coordinated with Obama White House Behavioral Sciences 'Team'
 
Contact: Jill Farrell, Judicial Watch, 202-646-5172
 
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch today announced it received two production of documents, 77 pages and 108 pages, from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revealing the Obama IRS coordinated with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Obama White House Behavioral Sciences "Team" in a $5 million program to pressure Americans to sign up for Obamacare. The documents also contain inter-agency agreements between the IRS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) devised to circumvent potential legal prohibitions on unauthorized disclosure or inspection of taxpayer information collected by the IRS.

The documents were produced under court order in an April 2017 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS and HHS filed after agencies failed to respond to November 2016 FOIA requests for:

  • All records concerning IRS efforts to reach out to individuals who either claimed an exemption or paid a penalty for failing to purchase mandatory health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Such records include, but are not limited to, communications, policies, and procedures pursuant to such efforts;
     
  • Samples of any letters, notices or other materials prepared and/or sent to taxpayers encouraging the purchase of mandatory health insurance; and
     
  • Any records regarding cooperation between IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services or any other government entity, whether state or federal, regarding efforts to reach out to individuals who have not purchased mandatory health insurance. Such records, include, but are not limited to, communications, agreements, memoranda of understanding, and any other inter-agency communications. Of special interest are any such records regarding the sharing of protected taxpayer information.

In September 2016, IRS Director of Individual Taxation Janet McCubbin writes to several of her colleagues:

    Attached are drafts of the letters that IRS will send to selected taxpayers who paid a penalty for failure to have coverage or who claimed an exemption form the coverage requirement for tax year 2015 … As you know, we are planning to send several different versions of the letter to see which types of messages work best.

    ***

    These letters have been drafted with input from the White House Behavioral Sciences Team and CMS, and have been approved by CMS. And IRS staff provided a lot of assistance on the PDF.

The White House Behavioral Sciences Team was established in 2015 by an Obama Executive Order directing federal agencies to adopt research about how people make decisions into policy development.
 
The documents show that the agencies spent at least $5 million to develop the letters ($4,820,702.83 and $179,297.17).

The documents released by Judicial Watch include letters targeting people who legally refused to sign up for Obamacare and elected to pay the penalty or individuals who claimed an exemption. The letter written to people who claimed an exemption states:

MORE: www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-show-hhs-used-irs-push-obamacare-use-confidential-taxpayer-information-raises-legal-questions/