In a landmark ruling with wide-ranging implications, the Supreme Court today announced it will rule to uphold individual mandate, the piece of the legislation requiring Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, a key part of the law which had come under heavy scrutiny.
In a semi-conservative and also slightly technical statement, the court ruled that the mandate IS actually unconstitutional under the Constitution’s commerce clause, but it CAN stay as part of Congress’s power under a taxing clause. The court said that the government will be allowed to tax people for not having health insurance. Originally the wording “taxing” was avoided to make the bill a little more palatable to legislators to pass, potentially making it fall under the “commerce clause” or ability for the Federal Government to regulate interstate purchasing.
Addressing the concern that this expands the commerce clause so far people could in the future be forced to “buy broccoli” as one argument puts it, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “(t)he Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the ruling.
The country has been in suspense for months, with an announcement at the beginning of the week that the court would hand down its decision today. The ruling is considered a victory for the Obama administration as many had anticipated that at least some of the law would be struck down.
The court’s ruling upholding the main part of Obama’s law means that people must buy health insurance or pay a tax up to several thousand dollars a year. It also means that other popular provisions of the law will stay, including the various employer mandates we have discussed in several seminars. If you would like to discuss our Health Care Reform expert doing a personal seminar at your location for your Executive Team, please let us know and we will be happy to look into scheduling that.
The vote was ultimately five to four. Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush, joined the more liberal four justices in upholding the mandate. Justice Anthony Kennedy who was originally thought to be the liberal swing vote, sided with the conservative bloc.
“Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in section 5000 A under the taxing power and that section 5000 a need not be read to do more than impose a tax,” Roberts wrote.
Thank you for trusting us to be your source for pertinent information and if you would like to read the entire Court writing, please click the below.