“Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.”
~ Chief Justice Roberts
You can find the entire ruling HERE. This is the early take. There are some details not covered that will be discussed but this is what we know now.
In one of the highest profile rulings in decades – one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in history has found the landmark achievement of President Obama as completely constitutional.
The ruling was written by Supreme Court Justice and was a 5-4 ruling in favor of the entire law. Justice Kennedy joined in his dissent on the individual mandate with the other conservative Justices and Chief Justice Roberts surprised America by ruling his conscience and not his politics.
Had Chief Justice Roberts not joined in the vote with the liberals from the court … the dissenting opinion from Chief Justice Kennedy says they would have completely repealed the law. Justice Kennedy wrote in his dissent:
“In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”
Amy Howe from SCOTUSblog wrote:
In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters.
Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.
Last night – Chief Justice Robert’s professor at Harvard Law said he felt the Roberts court would find the entire law constitutional because it is so clearly constitutional. The issue is about taxes and this law has no penalties if you fail to buy insurance other than a tax.
There was one small dissent from the court relative to how they ruled on what the federal government can and can not do. In the law – states are given funds for expanding the law and told that if they don’t expand their Medicaid coverage to sufficient levels then they could lose all of their federal funds. The court ruled that the government simply take away all of a state’s Medicaid funds if it chooses not to participate.
“Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.” (p. 55)
This ruling explains why conservative justice Scalia has been so publicly angered and political. More on that and his response to the AZ ruling HERE.
Even though it is commonly said that Obamacare is unpopular – we know that the vast majority of people favor the items in the healthcare law when they don’t know it’s Obamacare … including Republicans. A recent poll by the AP found that had there been a repeal of the law – 77% of Americans would have wanted immediate federal involvement (source).
From the ruling:
The Affordable Care Act describes the “[s]hared responsibility payment” as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label is fatal to the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. It does not, however, control whether an exaction is within Congress’s power to tax. In answering that constitutional question, this Court follows a functional approach,“[d]isregarding the designation of the exaction, and viewing its substance and application.” United Statesv. Constantine, 296 U. S. 287, 294. Pp. 33–35.
Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation. Cf. Baileyv. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U. S. 20, 36–37. None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance. See New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144, 169–174. Pp. 35–40.
Even if the mandate may reasonably be characterized as atax, it must still comply with the Direct Tax Clause, which provides: “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” Art. I, §9, cl. 4. A tax on going without health insurance is not like acapitation or other direct tax under this Court’s precedents. It therefore need not be apportioned so that each State pays in proportion toits population. Pp. 40–41.
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