Quick fact: Beck's “new little twist” is the same old health care jail time falsehood

Discussing Democratic health care reform, Glenn Beck falsely claimed that “if you don't play ball with them now, if you don't get into their government health care, there will be jail time.”

From the November 12 broadcast of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: But if you don't play by their new rules on health care, here's a new little twist. Have you heard this? You're going to be looking at a fun little stint in jail.

[Begin video clip]

SHOMARI STONE, KOMO 4 NEWS: If you don't buy health insurance, you go to jail? You didn't answer my question.

PELOSI: Well, the point, there is -- I think the legislation is very fair in this respect.

[End video clip]

BECK: When people like me had a problem with people coming across our border, taking jobs, going and flooding our hospitals taking our stuff, they didn't have a problem with that. But if you don't play ball with them now, if you don't get into their government health care, there will be jail time. And that of course was fair.

Fact: Penalty for failure to purchase insurance is a tax, not jail time.

As Media Matters noted, the reporter's question to Pelosi was based on a false talking point. Section 501 of the House health care reform bill provides that an individual must be “covered by acceptable coverage at all times.” “Acceptable coverage” includes “qualified health benefits plan coverage,” “grandfathered health insurance coverage,” “Medicare,” “Medicaid,” coverage provided to members of the armed forces and their dependents, “coverage under the veteran's health care program,” people who receive health care “through the Indian Health Service,” or other coverage deemed acceptable by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If a person does not have acceptable health care coverage, Section 501 imposes a tax on that person “not to exceed the applicable national average premium”

Fact: Willful failure to pay taxes of any sort can result in civil or criminal penalties

A press release by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) relying on a letter from the Joint Committee on Taxation states that “Americans who do not maintain 'acceptable health insurance coverage' and who choose not to pay the bill's new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.” That section of the letter dealing with “civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance” specifies that Camp asked the committee to “discuss the situation in which the taxpayer has chosen not to comply with individual mandate and not to pay the additional tax.” Thus, the letter is not discussing the penalties for failure to buy insurance, but the penalties for both failing to buy insurance and failing to pay the tax. The committee's letter explains that the tax code provides penalties to prevent tax evasion of any sort: “The Code provides for both civil and criminal penalties to ensure complete and accurate reporting of tax liability and to discourage fraudulent attempts to defeat or evade tax.” [Joint Committee on Taxation letter, 11/5/09]