Supreme Court Upholds ObamaCare in 5-4 Decision

June 29, 2012 — 734 views  

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In what has already been deemed a historic decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Cart Act – more popularly known as ObamaCare – by a vote of five to four. The decision was highly anticipated by both supporters and detractors of the controversial health care law that would provide coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans.

Chief Justice John Roberts was ultimately the deciding vote in the case by joining the left-leaning members of the court in upholding President Barack Obama's signature legislative initiative during his first term in office. However, Roberts disagreed with his other colleagues with respect to the specific reasoning behind his opinion. 

The other justices who voted to uphold the law – Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – believed that Congress has the authority to impose an individual mandate to purchase insurance through the commerce clause of the Constitution, but Roberts dismissed this argument. Instead, Roberts – who wrote the majority opinion in the case – argued that Congress could encourage the purchase of health insurance through its taxing authority.

This was not the argument that the Obama administration made when it was attempting to get the bill through Congress. At the time, President Obama repeatedly stated that the mandate was not a tax in order to blunt some of the criticism of his legislation. In addition, Solicitor General Don Verrilli, who defended the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court during oral arguments in March, deferred to the administration's argument when he attempted to make a nuanced distinction between a tax and a penalty.

Regardless of the specific authority under which the law was ultimately upheld, however, the result is clear: Unless Congress overturns the law – a highly unlikely event at this point – most of the Affordable Care Act will go into effect in 2014. In addition, the portions of the law that have already been implemented, including the provision that allows parents to keep their children on their policy until the age of 26, will remain in place.

When the new law is fully implemented in two years, most Americans will be required to either obtain health insurance or pay a tax that is equal to one percent of their income. In order to help citizens pay for this insurance, the government will provide subsidies to low-income individuals; in addition, states will be required to establish exchanges where health insurance can be purchased in a competitive market.

The new law will also affect the terms under which health insurance can be sold in the future. Most notably, health insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage to people who suffer from a preexisting condition, which currently prevents many people from obtaining insurance.

Although public opinion is still decidedly mixed on the issue of health care reform, the decision was a victory for the Obama administration as it prepares for the upcoming presidential election this fall. His presumptive opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has said that he would work to repeal the law if he is elected president in November.

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