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Senate panel probes ObamaCare aid confusion, as customers learn they owe IRS

The Senate's top investigative committee has launched an inquiry into the system that's supposed to ensure ObamaCare tax credits go to the right customers for the right amounts -- amid concerns that many Americans are getting inflated or improper subsidies. 

en. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who is leading the investigation, says because of the confusion with the system, millions of Americans are learning after the fact they inadvertently got too much money and now owe the IRS hundreds. 

"I'm concerned that the subsidy eligibility process is so complicated that many consumers believed they were receiving cheaper insurance coverage than they ultimately got," Portman said in a statement. 

Portman, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, announced his panel's investigation in a letter sent Thursday to HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell. "I have repeatedly raised questions regarding efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent improper payments through the exchanges," he wrote, saying his prior inquiries were insufficiently answered. 

"We take seriously our responsibility to make sure people who are eligible stay covered while protecting taxpayer dollars," said Meaghan Smith, the director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Portman also cited two investigations into the government's income-verification systems. The Government Accountability Office said in 2014 its investigators secured subsidies using false identities in 11 out of 12 undercover attempts. Also last year, an HHS inspector general report found the department "did not have procedures or did not follow procedures to ensure" against government overpayments. 

Committee investigators also point to an analysis by H&R Block that found almost two-thirds of its filers receiving an ObamaCare tax credit owed the government at the end of the year. On average, those filers were required to repay more than $700 of their ObamaCare subsidies. The study found most customers claiming the credits were confused about the requirements.

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This is just one more point in a long string of failures by federal bureaucracies. Unfortunately, as long as these agencies hold so much power, federal officials will continue to turn to them to solve problems.

The solution is to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and the best way to do that is through an Article V Convention of States.

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