NYT: Hey, all of these ObamaCare ads are kind of light on the penalty specifics, huh?

posted at 10:31 am on November 11, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

From rabid flying raccoons and a waterskiing Paul Bunyan to catchy folk jingles and BroSurance, the advertisements promoting ObamaCare across the country have ranged from the vaguely insouciant to the bizarre. Funnily enough, however, nowhere in most of these ads are we treated to an explanation of the new legal reality that could really be one of the most effective means in pushing Americans to sign up for insurance coverage: The individual mandate, anyone?

The New York Times takes note of the almost across-the-board, carrot-over-stick phenomenon going on in the relevant PR campaigns. You’d almost think that people don’t generally respond well to coercion, or something:

The state and federal health insurance exchanges are using all manner of humor and happy talk to sell the Affordable Care Act’s products. But the one part of the new system that they are not quick to trumpet is the financial penalty that Americans will face if they fail to buy insurance.

On state exchange websites, mention of the penalty is typically tucked away under “frequently asked questions,” if it appears at all. Television and print ads usually skip the issue, and operators of exchange telephone banks are instructed to discuss it only if asked. The federal website, now infamous for its glitches, mentions the penalty but also calls it a fee, or an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. …

State exchange operators say that they are not trying to hide the penalty, but that their market research has taught them that, at least in the initial phase, consumers will be more receptive to soothing messages and appeals to their sense of collective responsibility than to threats of punishment.

“It might be that they want to be positive,” said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the conservative Cato Institute. “But it’s also the case that an informed customer is not their best customer.”

No kidding. It would hardly do to readily demonstrate to, say, a Young Invincible — working part-time hours/underemployed/unemployed, and/or still living at home, and/or debating whether they really need to have health insurance — that paying the penalty might be their more attractive cost-benefit option, would it?

While the technological rollout of Obama’s signature legislative achievement has left much — much – to be desired, the law’s image is only going to get worse once the website does start running smoothly and more people are hit with the realization that higher premiums will be part and parcel of what is in essence a massive redistribution system.


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Poised to starve.

Bmore on November 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM

Who is paying for all these ads?

OmahaConservative on November 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM

The state and federal health insurance exchanges are using all manner of humor and happy talk to sell the Affordable Care Act’s products. But the one part of the new system that they are not quick to trumpet is the financial penalty that Americans will face if they fail to buy insurance.

I think Obama and the Dems are seriously hoping these young’uns and other LIVs never even realize there’s a mandate. If they’re uninsured and they get a tax refund from the government, maybe they won’t notice anything missing. And if they don’t file a tax return, then reportedly there’s no way for the IRS to collect that money, so no harm no foul.

Doughboy on November 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

What is there to advertise?

IT’S.

THE.

LAW.

CurtZHP on November 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Who is paying for all these ads?

OmahaConservative on November 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM

You are.

HiJack on November 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. …

Seriously, they had to go there? Orwell would be proud.

Johnnyreb on November 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Isn’t the penalty only collected from tax refunds? I almost never have my taxes paid by April 15th. Typically I’m writing a check in October for the previous year.

DanMan on November 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM

I keep on saying it, and I’ll repeat it here. Claim enough exemptions to require you to pay your taxes at the end of the year. No mo’ penalty.

HiJack on November 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Obamacare, brought to you by Carl’s Jr. (un-PC clip)

forest on November 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Isn’t the penalty only collected from tax refunds? I almost never have my taxes paid by April 15th. Typically I’m writing a check in October for the previous year.

DanMan on November 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM

My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that you are going to have to pay the penalty one way or another. If you have to write a check to the IRS, the penalty gets paid first and anything left over goes to pay your normal taxes. It appears they did think it through and realized that everyone would try to avoid the penalty just by not getting a refund.

Johnnyreb on November 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

I’m not sure why we’re worried about this. This whole thing isn’t designed to work, which is why they didn’t want Republicans involved in it. Just imagine the chaos when your insurance policy has been cancelled and you can’t get a replacement policy, not because you don’t want it, but because the site isn’t fixed or, the site is fixed and you just don’t like and can’t afford what’s offered. So, if you’re one of these youngsters who hasn’t paid enough in taxes to get a refund and you’re not working part time you may not even file your income tax this year and avoid the penalty (oh I forgot John Roberts says it’s a tax) and hope the next election deals with it.

bflat879 on November 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Who is the advertising mascot for this? Snidely Whiplash?

DarthBrooks on November 11, 2013 at 10:48 AM

mentions the penalty but also calls it a fee, or an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. …

LOL. “Shared responsibility payment.” Good one.

Except that millions of illegal aliens and foreign “healthcare tourists” who come to the U.S., use our hospitals and stick U.S. taxpayers with the bill (and the bill is billions of dollars every year), don’t have to participate in paying for that “shared responsibility” under Obamacare.

Because all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. And some responsibilities are “shared,” and some are just dumped on us rubes.

AZCoyote on November 11, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Who is paying for all these ads?

OmahaConservative on November 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM

You are.

HiJack on November 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Don’t tell me we are paying for the ads that recruit people onto food stamps too. That would be idiotic.

forest on November 11, 2013 at 10:49 AM

“Light on penalty specifics” … ? What do you expect from the government?

Truth in advertising ?

listens2glenn on November 11, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Finally admitted. Taxation is no longer to bring in revenue to run the legitimate function of government – it has evolved into being a “penalty”.

SouthernRoots on November 11, 2013 at 10:52 AM

The electorate is ignorant, apathetic and misled. We ought to be running ads emphasizing the penalties. That should do the ACA’s polls numbers some justice – as in coup d’ grace

paul1149 on November 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Before Obamacare, millions were uninsured or underinsured and the cost was picked up by the government or the insured.

After Obamacare, millions were uninsured or underinsured and the cost was picked up by the government or the insured.

What a plan.

SouthernRoots on November 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

At least sign-ups are going more smoothly now that they put the DMVs in charge.

forest on November 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

State exchange operators say that they are not trying to hide the penalty, but that their market research has taught them that, at least in the initial phase, consumers will be more receptive to soothing messages and appeals to their sense of collective responsibility than to threats of punishment.

And that’s the same reasoning obozo uses to justify his compulsive lying.

Flange on November 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Looks like lots of people are being myzled by this administration again.

Penalty? What penalty? No, that’s a Shared Responsibility fee – not a penalty. Silly you.

Hill60 on November 11, 2013 at 10:56 AM

My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that you are going to have to pay the penalty one way or another. If you have to write a check to the IRS, the penalty gets paid first and anything left over goes to pay your normal taxes. It appears they did think it through and realized that everyone would try to avoid the penalty just by not getting a refund.

Johnnyreb on November 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

I wouldn’t be surprised if the IRS did that to get around the fact there isn’t supposed to be any sanctions for not paying the PlaceboCare ta…er…penalty. I wonder what they would do to those who, other than said ta…er…penalty, correctly estimate their taxes and have to neither pay nor get a refund when they prepare their returns.

Steve Eggleston on November 11, 2013 at 10:58 AM

How to avoid penalties…. Arrange your withholding so that you will always owe taxes. They have no way to collect the penalty then.

Dasher on November 11, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Why does democrat legislation have penalties?

Murphy9 on November 11, 2013 at 10:58 AM

According to the SCOTUS, the mandate is constitutional only if it is a tax. This has been the biggest tax increase in the history of the U.S. This needs to be pounded in by every conservative running for office. Any liberal who voted for the Health Control Tax should be hammered with you voted for this tax!

DAT60A3 on November 11, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Interesting about the lack of, um, diversity in the ads. Any other time, we’d be seeing a rainbow of colors. Guess they need the white folks. Even in the “bros” ad, which I expected was going to be black dudes, it was three white guys.

sydneyjane on November 11, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Visit thehealthsherpa.com to find out plan costs for your zip code, age, and income… three guys did this in 3 days.

Dasher on November 11, 2013 at 11:01 AM

It appears they did think it through and realized that everyone would try to avoid the penalty just by not getting a refund.

Johnnyreb on November 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Limbaugh was pushing the refund process and tends to do good research, but I would lean toward your thought that you will be billed in some form. It parallels the mantra “you can just get insurance when you have the need” which is not the case, it is only during open enrollment periods. Again, hard to find the truth with this fraud perpetrated on us.

hillsoftx on November 11, 2013 at 11:02 AM

“But it’s also the case that an informed customer is not their best customer.”

Best. Legislation. Ever!

Why aren’t the trolls defending this crap sandwich anymore? We need super intelligent bayam to post and reassure us that the young will definitely work against their own economic interests, because STFU!

NotCoach on November 11, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Limbaugh was pushing the refund process and tends to do good research, but I would lean toward your thought that you will be billed in some form. It parallels the mantra “you can just get insurance when you have the need” which is not the case, it is only during open enrollment periods. Again, hard to find the truth with this fraud perpetrated on us.

hillsoftx on November 11, 2013 at 11:02 AM

You’ll be billed, but there are no penalties for ignoring the bill. The law specifically prohibits prosecution, levies, and liens.

NotCoach on November 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Individual Shared Responsibility Payment.

ROFL

Arbeit Macht Frei.

Bishop on November 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM

My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that you are going to have to pay the penalty one way or another. If you have to write a check to the IRS, the penalty gets paid first and anything left over goes to pay your normal taxes. It appears they did think it through and realized that everyone would try to avoid the penalty just by not getting a refund.

Johnnyreb on November 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

It doesn’t matter if you’re right or not. The scheme you describe would not pass constitutional muster since the IRS cannot (legally) create a criminal (you) by preventing you from doing what you must do under law.

But since the constitution is suspended by executive order, anything is possible.

platypus on November 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Looks like lots of people are being myzled my-zeld by this administration again.

Penalty? What penalty? No, that’s a Shared Responsibility fee – not a penalty. Silly you.

Hill60 on November 11, 2013 at 10:56 AM

NotCoach on November 11, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Buzzkill.

Tsar of Earth on November 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Capitalists have long said that if you build a better mousetrap, lots of people will buy it.

Trying to sell Obamacare to young healthy people is like selling a more expensive mousetrap to a mouse.

Steve Z on November 11, 2013 at 11:13 AM

CurtZHP on November 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Exactly — just one more example of how low-class and idiotic this administration is…

dpduq on November 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Quotations from Chairman Mao’s Obama’s little Red Book:
“Individual Shared Responsibility Payment.”

albill on November 11, 2013 at 11:17 AM

The most infuriating thing about the Obamacare debate is the media’s insistence on echoing the Administration’s talking point that there’s “only a small number” of negatively affected individual market purchasers.

It’s millions of people. Using that standard, we shouldn’t worry about wounded vets, because it’s only a small percentage of the adult population.

No, I’m not saying getting your premiums raised is like being wounded in war. I’m saying the numbers losing their insurance are large and completely relevant, especially when we’ve been told otherwise.

bobs1196 on November 11, 2013 at 11:20 AM

It doesn’t matter if you’re right or not. The scheme you describe would not pass constitutional muster since the IRS cannot (legally) create a criminal (you) by preventing you from doing what you must do under law.

But since the constitution is suspended by executive order, anything is possible.

platypus on November 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM

That’s what we thought about the ta…er…penalty itself. Worse, the first visit to a court of “law” would be to Tax Court, where one is guilty until proven innocent.

Steve Eggleston on November 11, 2013 at 11:21 AM

The entire problem with this is the assumption that there are enough young people making more than 300% of poverty to keep insurance rates at an affordable level.

You really can’t count on quite a few of them because they are also on their parents policies and do not require insurance of their own. Not to mention that many join the military and do not require insurance.

This entire thing is a bunch of wishful thinking on the part of the Democrats. Personally, I would recommend anyone who is facing prospects of purchasing insurance on the exchanges to wait until they really need it. Chances are it will save them money in the long run.

After all, that’s what this is all about right? Affordable Health Care by not paying for it until you actually need it.

Dannic on November 11, 2013 at 11:24 AM

It appears they did think it through and realized that everyone would try to avoid the penalty just by not getting a refund.

Johnnyreb on November 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Limbaugh was pushing the refund process and tends to do good research, but I would lean toward your thought that you will be billed in some form. It parallels the mantra “you can just get insurance when you have the need” which is not the case, it is only during open enrollment periods. Again, hard to find the truth with this fraud perpetrated on us.

hillsoftx on November 11, 2013 at 11:02 AM

There is a long list of excuses allowed however, like being under the threat of eviction during the tax year, being unemployed for a certain period of time, etc. I see a real business opportunity for someone who can put together fake documents to allow someone to claim an exemption from the Roberts Tax.

slickwillie2001 on November 11, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Before Obamacare, millions were uninsured or underinsured and the cost was picked up by the government taxpayer or the insured.

After Obamacare, millions MORE were uninsured or underinsured and the INCREASED cost was picked up by the government taxpayer or the insured.

What a plan.

SouthernRoots on November 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Tweaked just a bit.

Midas on November 11, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Taxation is no longer to bring in revenue to run the legitimate function of government – it has evolved into being a “penalty”. SouthernRoots on November 11, 2013 at 10:52 AM

This is news?

Taxes are the penalties for good behavior, fines are penalties for poor behavior.

Akzed on November 11, 2013 at 11:51 AM

I usually ask around this point, “Is it time for torches and pitchforks?”.

It’s time for torches and pitchforks.

justltl on November 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Let’s add a few things here. 60M cancelations going out, no way as of now to get replacement policies, and the penalties are still in effect and are cheaper the the policies if you could, which for now you can not, get them. What an absolutely insane government. We are now looking at a total cost of nearly 7T dollars and counting. We must stop this madness by what ever means necessary. The system has all ready compromised the security of all associated web data bases. The total cost looks like it will cost more then WWI plus WWII plus Korea plus Viet Nam combined wake up and smell your fat in the fire. No joke no playing it down stop this now and take it away from your drunken sots in congress before it’s to late for all of us. That is all of us except our congress who has excepted themselves from all of this. The true cost of this ACA because of its ineptness will exceed the national debt and may end up in multiples of the current national debt. Sorry for the doom and gloom but do your own investigation do your own math. Don’t continue to hold the only truths to be the lies, spins and misdirection of a government that continually shows themselves to be with out honor and undeserving if our sacred trust.

jpcpt03 on November 11, 2013 at 12:00 PM

No kidding. It would hardly do to readily demonstrate to, say, a Young Invincible — working part-time hours/underemployed/unemployed, and/or still living at home, and/or debating whether they really need to have health insurance — that paying the penalty might be their more attractive cost-benefit option, would it?

Most of the people you refer to will not be subject to the mandate, because:

1. the individual mandate only operates above a certain income threshold; and/or

2. under the ACA, children can stay on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 26.

righty45 on November 11, 2013 at 12:10 PM

jpcpt03 on November 11, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Seriously, there should be masses of people filling the National Mall and surrounding the White House and Capitol.

justltl on November 11, 2013 at 12:13 PM

1. the individual mandate only operates above a certain income threshold; and/or

Equal protection under the law!

Murphy9 on November 11, 2013 at 12:21 PM

State exchange operators say that they are not trying to hide the penalty, but that their market research has taught them that, at least in the initial phase, consumers will be more receptive to soothing messages and appeals to their sense of collective responsibility than to threats of punishment.

And that’s the same reasoning obozo uses to justify his compulsive lying.

Flange on November 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

And that is the way of Islam. If your news is bad news then it is OK to omit or lie about it.

I read this in an Arabic newspaper several years ago (A man wrote in to the ‘Dear Imam’ newspaper service):

Man: “I’ve been working overseas for 2 years and when I came home my wife is ready to give me a newborn son. My wife says she has been pregnant for 2 years. Is this possible?”
Response: “Yes it is.”

TerryW on November 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Equal protection under the law!

Murphy9 on November 11, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Well some protection is more equal than others…

Oldnuke on November 11, 2013 at 12:29 PM

It’s not a fine or a penalty. It’s a tax and I think calling it what the SCOTUS called it to make it “the law of the land” carries more negative connotations than calling it a penalty or fine.

Jackson on November 11, 2013 at 12:35 PM

It is a TAX! NOT a PENALTY or a FEE. John Roberts ruled in favor of OC as a TAX!!!!!!!

Drives me out of my mind that otherwise respected responsible writers do NOT shout that fact loud and clear.

From the official ACA site:

“…the individual mandate requires that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. The individual mandate goes into effect January 1st, 2014. The penalty will be applied to your annual taxable income for each month you don’t have health insurance (although you do have a 3 month grace period hence the marketplaces being open until March 31st, 2014).

In fee for not having insurance in 2014 is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or 1% of your taxable income (up to $285 for a family), whichever is greater. See the “How the ObamaCare Tax Penalty Works” section below for more detail.

The mandate to have insurance for 2014 is sometimes referred to as the ObamaCare tax penalty, the individual mandate or individual shared responsibility fee. These are all the same thing. If you are looking for information on the employer shared responsibility fee (the one where employers have to cover full-time workers), please see our employer mandate page.”

wyntre9 on November 11, 2013 at 12:51 PM

DAT60A3 on November 11, 2013 at 10:59 AM

BINGO!

wyntre9 on November 11, 2013 at 12:55 PM

a Young Invincible — working part-time hours/underemployed/unemployed, and/or still living at home, and/or debating whether they really need to have health insurance — that paying the penalty might be their more attractive cost-benefit option, would it?

Aren’t these people, up to age 26, still on their parent’s plan? Let’s stick it to our liberal parents!

Vince on November 11, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Most of the people you refer to will not be subject to the mandate, because:

1. the individual mandate only operates above a certain income threshold; and/or

2. under the ACA, children can stay on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 26.

righty45 on November 11, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Won’t the parents get stuck with the tax penalty? Perhaps this is why they allow deadbeat kids stay on the parents plan until age 26.

Vince on November 11, 2013 at 1:12 PM

So where is the commercial that features the old fogey with an RV and a bumper sticker saying ‘I’m spending my kid’s inheritance’ saying “Pay up, you young saps, I gotta get my hip replaced so I can go tour the Grand Canyon again”?

That would make a GREAT Obamacare commercial!

ajacksonian on November 11, 2013 at 1:53 PM

“1. the individual mandate only operates above a certain income threshold”

Uh, no. It applies to everyone. The only people who do not have to deal with it are those who qualify for medicare or medicaid. Some people will get their payments subsidized, but that does not mean that they are not subject to the penalty if they do not get on a plan. That actually includes those same medicare/medicaid subscribers.

West on November 11, 2013 at 2:07 PM

But look at all that tasty bread. And how about those circuses?

neyney on November 11, 2013 at 2:25 PM

justltl on November 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Lampposts and rope

Cleombrotus on November 11, 2013 at 2:30 PM

The federal website, now infamous for its glitches, mentions the penalty but also calls it a fee, or an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. …

I thought this was settled by Chief Traitor John Benedict Roberts, it’s a TAX!

RJL on November 11, 2013 at 5:49 PM