After the Obamacare tax hit, the REAL pain

For many of the millions of Americans who have been putting off doing their taxes until the last few days, there's been a very rude Obamacare awakening. All those penalties for not having any health coverage are kicking in and for a lot of people, those penalties are steeper than they expected.

Because of the tax pain, many of the non-covered holdouts will begrudgingly sign up for lower premium/higher deductible plans. In the past, I have called the people who wouldn't sign up for any kind of health care insurance "stupid." And I still think it was a stupid move not to have at least some kind of plan. But now that so many of those people will be joining the rolls of the insured, I'll just feel sorry for them.

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Emergency room
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Here's why: If you're relatively healthy and relatively young and you have a health insurance plan with a $5,000 or $6,000 deductible, then in all reality you really don't have health insurance. Without a major accident or sudden health problem, most people don't rack up $6,000 in medical bills in a year all on their own. Worse than that, having to pay the first six grand of your annual medical bills 100 percent out of pocket is understandably going to make people "covered" by those plans very hesitant to go to the doctor until they get really worried or a lot sicker. In other words, they'll be showing up in the emergency rooms instead, where that $6,000 deductible will be eaten up pretty quickly.

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This scenario is exactly how this tax season will produce the first profound effect to the health care system. Health-insurance companies will enjoy a bonanza of people signing up for high deductible plans that, at least at first, will bring them thousands — maybe millions — of customers who will pay their premiums and still avoid doctors and real health care like the plague.

In the short run, this will boost health-insurance earnings but in the longer run, the system will be more heavily taxed by all those ER visits.

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But let's talk politics now, because unfair and painful taxes have had a way of causing very strong political reactions in this country ever since the Boston Tea Party. You'd have to be a lot denser than Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden put together not to see the huge political opportunity that's just been handed to the Republicans now that millions of American consumers and small business owners have just been forced to deal with a very new and very painful tax all at the same time.

It's one thing to attack all taxes all the time. It's another thing to rail on about a tax like the AMT that only affects richer people in Middle America and upper middle class folks on the coasts. But it's a much, much, much more effective thing to attack a new tax that hits mostly younger voters who in the past have sided more with the opposing party. It's a much, much, much more effective thing to stake your campaign or your party's message on a promise to repeal or neutralize that tax. And it's a much, much, much more effective thing to point out that your opponents and your opponents' party takes 100 percent full responsibility for making that tax exist in the first place.

When Republicans started dominating presidential elections and many Americans became staunchly conservative in the 1980's, the old joke used to be that a conservative was a liberal who got mugged. In some cases, the "mugging" in question was an actual robbery on the street. But Americans also felt mugged when they went to the grocery store or gas station and were hit with high inflation. They felt mugged when they saw crackpot foreign dictators parading American hostages in the streets. Now, I'm not the first person to compare these new Obamacare taxes and penalties to that same kind of mugging but trust me on this one — this analogy is going to gain momentum in the run-up to the 2016 election.

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The bottom line is that Republicans won't be able to win back the White House unless they convert a decent number of the people who voted for Barack Obama over to their side. I'm willing to bet that the majority of the non-Obamacare compliant Americans getting hit with that ugly new tax this week were Obama voters if they voted at all. This is the GOP's big opportunity and the most successful Republican presidential candidates in the coming months will be the ones who stop talking about repealing all of Obamacare and start talking specifically about this tax and their plans to fix it.

And if this Obamacare non-compliance tax doesn't become a major talking point in the 2016 election, you'll know that the Democrats successfully ran away from it and the Republicans were too stupid or elitist to take hold of the kind of simple and overreaching issue that makes presidents.

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Power Lunch." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.