Carney: A Penalty, Not a Tax in Health Care Law

The White House, on the day after the Supreme Court based its validation of health care reform on the government's taxing power, is aggressively fighting back against Republican claims that Obamacare contains a tax increase. Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted on Friday that the law imposes a penalty "“ not a tax "“ and that it will be paid only by those who choose that option. And, he added, no matter what you call it, it is modeled after what Republican Mitt Romney did when he was governor of Massachusetts.

"You can call it what you want," Carney told reporters en route to Colorado where the president was to view the battle against raging wildfires. "If you read the opinion, it is not a broad-based tax. It affects one percent, by CBO estimates, of the population."  Pressed on whether that 1 percent will be paying a tax or a penalty, he responded, "It's a penalty because you have a choice. You don't a have a choice to pay your taxes. You have a choice. If you can afford health insurance, if you don't buy it."

Specifically citing the court's opinion, he said, "With regard to the penalty as was discussed by Chief Justice Roberts in his opinion, for those who could afford health insurance but choose to remain uninsured -- forcing the rest of us to pay for their care -- a penalty is administered as part of the Affordable Care Act."

He added, "It is important to remember that the penalty"¦ is modeled exactly on the penalty that exists in the health care reform that was promoted and signed into law by Governor Romney in Massachusetts."

Republicans, of course, see it differently and have been pounding on the tax issue ever since the court ruled. Rush Limbaugh contended the law contains "the largest tax increase in the history of the world."