Au­dit: IRS low­balled cost of en­roll­ment into Oba­macare.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “mis­led” Amer­i­cans into think­ing sign­ing up for Oba­macare would be cheaper than it re­ally was, ac­cord­ing to an in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port Thurs­day that said the IRS dra­mat­i­cally un­der­stated the ac­tual cost of en­rolling.

IRS of­fi­cials sent the let­ters to try to prod Amer­i­cans to com­ply with the 2010 health law’s “in­di­vid­ual man­date” that pe­nal­izes them for not hold­ing cov­er­age.

But as part of the let­ters, the IRS said most peo­ple could find plans for $75 a month or less once gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies were fig­ured in.

That was un­true — in fact, the av­er­age cost was more than twice that fig­ure, at $168 a month, the Trea­sury In­spec­tor Gen­eral for Tax Ad­min­is­tra­tion said.

“Many of the nearly 7.5 mil­lion tax­pay­ers who re­ceive let­ters and seek in­sur­ance may feel mis­led if the ac­tual cost of their in­sur­ance is much higher than the $75 per month de­tailed in their no­ti­fi­ca­tion let­ter,” the in­spec­tor gen­eral con­cluded.

The IRS said it was only us­ing num­bers pro­vided by Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices and ver­i­fied by the Trea­sury Depart­ment. They said the $75 fig­ure was true for some tax­pay­ers.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral said it asked for that doc­u­men­ta­tion but never re­ceived it.

Au­di­tors said their own anal­y­sis found the HHS stud­ies were based on a smaller sam­ple and was lim­ited to those who chose lower-cov­er­age plans with fewer ben­e­fits.

Ac­cord­ing to the new au­dit, fed­eral reg­u­la­tions re­quire agen­cies to present ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors un­cov­ered the mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion as part of a broader au­dit about how the IRS was han­dling its role in alert­ing Amer­i­cans who aren’t com­ply­ing with Oba­macare’s man­date to hold in­sur­ance.

Some 19.3 mil­lion Amer­i­cans ducked the Oba­macare man­date in 2016, with 12.8 mil­lion claim­ing an ex­emp­tion and 6.5 mil­lion pay­ing the tax penalty.

The IRS was sup­posed to be­gin send­ing let­ters in June 2015 to en­cour­age those who ducked the man­date to sign up, but the agency de­clined, say­ing it wanted to in­stead study be­hav­ior from Oba­macare’s first full year of oper­a­tions in 2014.

The agency also missed the dead­line in 2016, but did send no­tices be­gin­ning at the end of the year.

Of­fi­cials said they fig­ured they’d get bet­ter re­cep­tion if they sent them close to the time of en­roll­ment for 2017.

Some 7.5 mil­lion let­ters were sent — about half in English and half in Span­ish.

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