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The Internal Revenue Service is making a small change to how they evaluate one line of a tax document this year.
And it could have big implications for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the law better known as Obamacare.
Essentially, line 61 on the IRS 1040 tax form asks the filer whether they have health insurance, which is mandated by the ACA.
But following President Donald Trump's executive order on Obamacare in which he instructed federal agencies to remove the "burden" of the law, the IRS decided that it would not reject those 1040 forms with a question that asked whether the filer had health insurance left blank.
The IRS was originally planning to not process forms that left the line blank for the 2016 tax year. Therefore, a person either had to buy insurance or inform the IRS they were uninsured and pay the ACA's individual mandate penalty. 2016 was the same year that the full cost burden of the penalty went into effect, totaling $650 per adult.
Health policy experts had predicted that the stricter imposition of the penalties could drive more enrollment and help rebalance the Obamacare exchanges' risk pool, which have so far been sicker and more expensive for insurers than expected.
The tax agency said it could still go back and ask a filer about leaving the form blank if it wants to, but it may not necessarily do that for every American that leaves line 61, in the IRS term, "silent."
So instead of contributing to the stabilization of the individual market, the change allows those that want to avoid the penalty a simpler way to potentially do so.
In a statement to Reason, an IRS official said the recent executive order allows them to make the step and accept "instances where a taxpayer doesn't indicate their coverage status."
"Processing silent returns means that taxpayer returns are not systemically rejected, allowing them to be processed and minimizing burden on taxpayers, including those expecting a refund," the IRS told Reason.
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