In Case You Missed It: Congressman Black's Op-Ed in U.S. News & World Report "Obamacare's Big Brother Database"

Jun 5, 2013 Issues: Health, Tax Reform

Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican, serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight. She has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years.

In August 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama vowed to the American people that he would undo "the cynicism we all have about government," an odd promise from a man intently focused on growing the size and scope of government. Now nearly five years later in the wake of the recent IRS scandal, President Obama has made another promise to the American people: "I'll do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again."

Everything? But what about Obamacare? In spite of the blatant, political corruption at the IRS, the Obama administration is moving full steam ahead with Obamacare, a law that gives unprecedented new access and powers to bureaucrats at the IRS and at least four other federal government agencies. Is that really going to undo the cynicism we have about government and protect Americans from further targeting? Consider the potential for abuse with Obamacare's mystery Federal Data Services Hub, "the largest personal information database the government has ever attempted," according to the Wall Street Journal.

For the purposes of implementing and enforcing Obamacare, the Department of Health and Human Services through regulatory fiat is building this Hub, a web portal where personal information such as medical records, tax and financial information, criminal background and immigration status will be shared and transmitted between agencies, including the IRS, HHS, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration as well as state governments. 

Despite being only four months from Obamacare open enrollment, even the most basic questions about the Data Hub have yet to be answered. For instance, which agencies will have access to what information in it; will government employees, contractors and third parties have access; and what training and security clearances – if any – are required for these individuals. Which begs the question: Is this what President Obama meant by being the most transparent administration in U.S. history?

With so much personal information going in and out of the Hub likely privy to both government employees and contractors, many of whom will have discretion over health care coverage and tax penalties, the potential for abuses is staggering.

At the helm of the IRS's eight newly created Obamacare enforcement offices is none other than Sarah Hall Ingraham, the former commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations during the targeting scandal. Under her leadership, the IRS's Obamacare offices will make determinations ranging from new tax regulations to mandates, market share and employment status. Will the Americans who do not purchase government approved insurance soon find themselves targeted and harassed through IRS audits?  Right now, only time will tell.

But stopping the IRS won't be enough. With or without the IRS, HHS will likely be able to proceed with significant portions of Obamcare implementation, thus leaving Americans at risk of being targeted by any of the federal agencies who have access to the Data Hub. While HHS cannot audit or directly levy taxes, under President Obama the department has a strong track record of rewarding allies and punishing enemies.

The president has previously described the healthcare law as "a new set of rules that treats everybody honestly and treats everybody fairly," but try telling that to businesses like Hobby Lobby or a nonunion worker. By seeking to operate in accordance with its Christian principles, including offering health insurance plans that align with those values, Hobby Lobby, a family owned business that employs more than 20,000 workers in 41 states, could face fines up to $1.3 million dollars per day. Unlike Hobby Lobby, the White House's political allies, such as many unions and organizations like AARP, have received Obamacare waivers and exemptions. In other words, support the Obama White House and get off the hook for millions in new health care related costs and avoid crippling fines, or oppose this administration and risk losing your livelihood.

In addition, each year HHS doles out billions of dollars in grants to a disproportionate number of organizations with close ties to the White House. And now Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is soliciting private donations from companies for her Obamacare "nonprofit." With control over billions in federal dollars and even greater access to personal information, HHS and IRS with the aid of the Data Hub are well positioned to carry out the president's left wing agenda through coercion and harassment of its enemies and rewards for its allies.

For all these reasons and more, I have introduced H.R. 2022, "Stopping Government Abuse of Taxpayer Information Act," which requires all government agencies with access to Obamacare's Federal Data Services Hub to present to Congress under penalty of perjury of the law certification that the American people's personal information has not and will not be used for targeting any individual or group based on their beliefs.

With full implementation of Obamacare imminent, the IRS scandal underscores why we must not only continue the fight to repeal the health care law, but we also have a responsibility to demand safeguards, accountability and oversight measures be put in place to shield Americans from further targeting. 

The question is: Will the president honor his promises to the American people to undo the cynicism about government and do everything in his power to make sure nothing like the IRS scandal happens again?

Click here to read Congressman Black’s op-ed in U.S. News and World Report.