Rep. Wasserman Schultz Insists Health Care Law Doesn't Require Individuals to Buy Insurance

By Matt Cover | April 7, 2010 | 5:06 PM EDT

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

( – Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.-Fla.) is insisting that the new health care law she voted for last month does not mandate that individuals buy health insurance, despite language in the law that plainly says otherwise.

At an April 5 town hall meeting in Fort Lauderdale (see video below), a constituent asked Wasserman Shultz where the Constitution authorized Congress to mandate that individuals buy health insurance. She responded that the new health care law did not require individuals to buy health insurance.

In a written statement to on Wednesday, her press secretary, Jonathan Beeton, said it was true that the health care law did not mandate that individuals buy health insurance and that Wasserman Schultz stood by her assertion at the townhall meeting.

“We actually have not required in this law that you carry health insurance,” Wasserman Schultz said at the townhall meeting.
“Yes, this is accurate,” Beeton said in his statement to  “You have a choice of insuring yourself with affordable coverage, or paying an assessment that will offset the burden you place on other insured Americans and taxpayers by not being insured.”

Wasserman Schultz said at the townhall meeting that instead of an individual federal mandate, the law merely created new tax categories that would reflect who carries insurance and who does not. “What we did is that--just like when you’re treated--that they categorize you differently in terms of your tax return when you’re married versus single, just like we categorize you differently when you’re a homeowner versus someone who doesn’t own a home; just like we’ve categorized you differently when you have children versus not having children,” she said.

“What we’re doing is that you will be in a different tax status if you carry insurance versus not carrying health insurance,” said the congresswoman. “So you can feel free to choose not to carry health insurance -- that’s just going to be reflected in the tax category that you’re in on your tax return.”
To drive her point home, Wasserman Schultz again stated that there was no requirement to buy health insurance. “But there is no requirement in this law that you must carry health insurance,” she said.
The actual law she voted for says otherwise. It contains a requirement that each person have health insurance, and assesses a penalty if they do not.
The bill amends the Internal Revenue Code, the nation’s tax law, adding a section entitled, “Requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage,” section 5000A.
“Subtitle D of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new chapter: ‘‘CHAPTER 48—MAINTENANCE OF MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE ‘‘Sec. 5000A. Requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage.”
Contrary to Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s claim, this section of the law requires that every individual certify to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that they have a government-approved level of health insurance coverage.
“REQUIREMENT TO MAINTAIN MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE.—An applicable individual shall for each month beginning after 2013 ensure that the individual, and any dependent of the individual who is an applicable individual, is covered under minimum essential coverage for such month,” the law reads.
Individuals who fail to compy with this "requirement" are assessed a “shared responsibility payment”--a fine collected by the IRS.
“SHARED RESPONSIBILITY PAYMENT.— ‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—If an applicable individual fails to meet the requirement of subsection (a) for 1 or more months during any calendar year beginning after 2013…there is hereby imposed a penalty with respect to the individual in the amount determined under subsection (c).”
That penalty will be no more than $750 per person who does not have health insurance, up to a maximum of $2,250 per household or two percent of household income, whichever is greater.
The law does not create additional tax filing statuses--like the current married or single-filing status--nor does it mandate that not having insurance would place an individual in a different tax bracket, as the mortgage and child deductions can.
“INCLUSION WITH RETURN.—Any penalty imposed by this section with respect to any month shall be included with a taxpayer’s return under chapter 1 for the taxable year which includes such month,” says the new law.